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Full text of "The life of Benjamin Disraeli, earl of Beaconsfield"

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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 







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1837— 1846 


Read no history, nothing but 
biography, for that is life without 
theory. — CoNTARiNi Fleming. 



All rights reserved 

Copyright, 1912, 

^et tip and electrotyped. Published November, 1912. Reprinted 
January, 1913: January, 1917. 

NnrfaooU ^rtaa 

J. 8. Gushing Co. — Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 


15 d M"^ 


The period covered by this volume, the preparation of 
which has been delayed by reasons of health, is a period 
of critical importance in Disraeli's career, and one with 
regard to which there has been much misunderstanding. 
It is also, as it seems to me, the period when his genius 
was at its greatest height and vigour. These are the 
justifications, if any are needed, for what may seem at 
first sight the disproportionate length at which it has 
been treated. 

I have again to thank Lord Rothschild and the other 
trustees of the Beaconsfield estate for their constant 
kindness and encouragement. Outside the Beaconsfield 
papers my main reliance, as in the previous volume, has 
been on published material ; but I have once more to 
record my obligations to Captain Lindsay for the originals 
of many of Disraeli's letters to his sister, and I am also 
under obligations to the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lans- 
downe, and Mr. Leopold de Rothschild, in the case of 
a few other documents. For most of the illustrations 
I am again indebted to Mr. Coningsby Disraeli, but the 
portraits of Lord George Bentinck, Mr. Henry Hope, 
and Lord John Manners are owing, respectively, to the 


Duke of Portland, Mr. Adrian Hope, and Lady Victoria 
Manners. Lastly, my best thanks are due to Mr. G. E. 
Buckle and my publisher, Mr. Murray, for their kindness 
in reading the proof-sheets and for many helpful sug- 

W. F. M. 
October, 1912. 




I. THE MAIDEN SPEECH. 1837-1838 .... 1 
II. MARRIAGE. 1838-1839 36 

III. THE CONDITION OF ENGLAND. 1839-1841 . . 75 

V. A WINTER IN PARIS. 1841-1843 . . . .146 

VI. YOUNG ENGLAND. 1843-1844 162 

VII. CONINGSBY. 1844 197 


IX. SYBIL. 1845 250 

X. THE TORY IDEA. 1844-1845 267 

XI. DISRAELI AND PEEL. 1845-1846 . . . .303 

XII. THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL. 1846 . . . .358 

Appendix : 

1842 - .... 409 

Index 415 




From a miniature painted in 1829. 


MRS. DISRAELI, 1840 70 

From a picture by Chalon. 


From a picture by Chalon. 


From a picture by R. Buckner. 


From a drawing. 


From a drawing by Charles Martin, in the possession of Lady 
Victoria Manners. 


From a drawing by Charles Martin, in the possession of 
Mr. Coningsby Disraeli. 


From a portrait at Wei beck. 


The Maiden Speech 


On November 15, 1837, Queen Victoria's first Parliament 
assembled for its first session, and Disraeli began the 
career in the House of Commons which was to last 
without a break for nearly forty years. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

[Nov. 15, 1837.] 
My Dkarest, 

I took my seat this morning : I went down to the House 
with Wyndham [Lewis] at two, and found it very full, the 
members standing in groups and chatting. About three, 
there was a cry of ' Order, order,' all took their seats (myself 
on the second bench, behind Sir Robert Peel), and a messenger 
summoned the Commons. The Government party was very 
strong in consequence of an article in Hie Times about two 
days back, which spread a panic through their ranks, but 
which I think was a hoax. Shaw Lefevre proposed, and Strutt 
of Derby seconded, Abercromby.^ Both were brief, the first 
commonplace, the other commonplace and coarse; all was 
tame. Peel said a very little, very well. Then Abercromby, 
who looked like an old laundress, mumbled and moaned some 
dullness, and was then carried to the chair, and said a little 
more amid a faint, dull cheer. To me of course the scene 
was exciting enough, but none could share my feelings except 
new members. 

1 The Speaker in the late Parliament, who at its opening in 1835 had 
been put forward by the Whigs against his Tory predecessor Manners- 
Sutton, and elected by a majority of six after a fierce party struggle. The 
article in The Times had hinted that the Opposition might follow the 
exam.ple set them by the Whigs in 1836, and oppose Abercromby's re- 

VOL. II — B 1 


Peel came to the Carlton yesterday, and was there a great 
deal. He welcomed me very warmly, but all indeed noticed 
liis cordial demeanor; he looks very well, and shook hands 
with me in the House. He asked me to join a small dinner at 
the Carlton on Thursday. 'A House of Commons dinner 
purely,' he said ; ' by that time we shall know something of 
the temper of the House.' 

O'Connell came in very late ; many members on both sides 
arrived only this morning. I did not recognise Bulwer, but 
as he is in town I think he must have been there. 

My love to all, 


The old Palace of Westminster had been partly de- 
stroyed by fire in 1834, and Lords and Commons were 
still in the temporary chambers^ which they occupied while 
Barrj^'s stately pile was rising from the ruins. The House 
of Commons of which Disraeli now found himself a member 
has a remarkable roll of fame. Lord Melbourne, the 
Whig Prime Minister, had his place in the House of Lords, 
but, with the exception of Lord Aberdeen, every one of 
his successors in the highest office under the Crown down 
to the time when Lord Salisbury formed his first Govern- 
ment, nearly half a century later, was in the new House 
of Commons. Sir Robert Peel, who had been Prime 
Minister for a short period already, and now led the 
Opposition, was in a very few years to be Prime Minister 
again. Lord John Russell, who was now Home Secretary 
and leader of the House, was twice to be at the head of 
Whig administrations; but in the interval between them 
he was to revert to second place, yielding the primacy 
to his present colleague. Lord Palmerston, the Foreign 
Secretary, who, over fifty as he was, and with a very long 
career in office behind him, had as yet given little promise 
of the fame and popularity he was afterwards to win. 
Lord Stanley, Peel's neighbour on the front Opposition 
bench, who had begun life as a Whig, was to be three 
times Prime Minister as the leader of the Tories; and on 
the same bench sat Mr. Gladstone, who, though not yet 

^The Lords in the Painted Chamber, and the Commons in the old 
House of Lords. 


twenty-eight, had now been five years in Parliament and 
had held subordinate office in Peel's short administra 
tion, and who on no less than four occasions was to find 
himself at the head of a Government of the opposite party. 
The new member for Maidstone, conspicuous by his 
Jewish appearance and highly dandified dress, completes 
the number of our future Prime Ministers; though, as he 
moved into his place behind Peel and Stanley and Glad- 
stone, none probably but himself had a thought of the 
high destiny that awaited him. 

After Russell and Palmerston, the most notable occu- 
pants of the front Ministerial bench were Spring Rice, the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer ; Poulett Thomson, the 
President of the Board of Trade, who a few years later, 
under the title of Lord Sydenham, was, as Governor- 
General of Canada, to leave his mark on the history of 
our colonial administration ; Cam Hobhouse, the friend 
of Byron, President of the Board of Control ; the Attorney- 
General, Sir John Campbell, afterwards Lord Chancellor ; 
and Lord Morpeth, the popular Chief Secretary for Ireland, 
of which Thomas Drummond, the Under-Secretary, was 
now the real ruler. Macaulay was still in India, but within 
two years was to take his place in the Whig Cabinet. 
Sir Henry Hardinge, who had been Irish Secretary in 
Peel's short administration, but who is better remem- 
bered as a soldier and Governor-General of India, was 
among those who had seats on the front Opposition 
bench, as were also Sir Edward Sugden, who had been 
Irish Lord Chancellor, and was later, as Lord St. Leonards, 
to sit on the English Woolsack ; Goulburn, who had been 
Peel's Home Secretary in 1835; and Herries — 'old, grey- 
headed, financial Herries'^ — who had begun his career 
under Pitt, and had been Chancellor of the Exchequer 
without a Budget in the brief Ministry of Goderich. Sir 
James Graham had lost his election in Cumberland, and, 
when Parliament met, was not in his place by Lord 
Stanley, with whom he had seceded from the Whigs in 

1 See Vol. I., p. 205. 


1834 ; but he was soon to return to the House as member 
for another constituency. 

Outside the two front benches there were many note- 
worthy figures. Most conspicuous of all was the burly 
form of O'Connell, the real, though not exacting, master 
of the Government. Close to him, but sharply con- 
trasted in the matter of bulk and stature, was his lieu- 
tenant, Richard Lalor Shell. On the Tory side of the 
House there were Disraeli's friends, Lord Chandos and 
Sir Francis Burdett; Mackworth Praed, member for 
Aylesbury, already nearing the close of his too brief life ; 
Lord Ashley, afterwards famous as the philanthropic 
Earl of Shaftesbury ; and two notable personalities in the 
representatives of King's Lynn, Lord George Bentinck, 
then an invincibly silent member, and Sir Stratford 
Canning, who had won celebrity in the diplomatic world 
long before he entered Parliament. Among the Whig 
members were the witty and vivacious Charles Buller, 
and a boyish figure. Lord Leveson, who during Disraeli's 
time was to play a conspicuous part on the political stage 
as Lord Granville. The little band of Radicals, though 
attenuated by the elections, was, in proportion to its 
numbers, richer in talent and personality than the general 
body of the Whigs. Roebuck was not to be seen, having 
met with defeat at Bath ; but, in spite of a similar defeat 
in Middlesex, Joseph Hume, the vigilant and persistent 
critic of the estimates, was in his usual place, having 
already contrived to find a friendly refuge in Kilkenny. 
Grote, who sat for the City of London, and who is remem- 
bered as the historian of Greece, if as a Radical politician 
he is forgotten, was one of the group of philosophic 
Radicals ; and another was Sir William Molesworth, a 
young Cornish baronet, whose austerity in the matter of 
political principle did not prevent him from being some- 
thing of a dandy in his dress. Not far away were a 
couple of friends of Disraeli's, Radicals of a different type 
from .Molesworth, but equally elaborate in their dress — 
Edward Bulwer, the novelist, and ' honest Tom Dun- 


combe,' a man of birth and fashion who was one of 
D'Orsay's chosen associates. Another friend of Disraeli's 
was a young patrician Radical of a more serious cast than 
Duncombe — Charles Villiers, already the persistent enemy 
of the Corn Laws, a pioneer in the cause of which he lived 
to be the Nestor. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Nov. 16. 

There is no news. I have just come from the House, 
where I went to be sworn. It was something like Quarter 
Sessions on a great scale. 

The dinner to-day is merely a House dinner of 14 — all 
our great men with the exception of Lord Ramsay^ and 
myself, the only two new members. It has created some 
jealousy and surprise; but W[yndham] L[ewis] is delighted, 
and says ' Peel has taken him by the hand in the most marked 
way.' . . . 


November 21. 

1 tried to write you a line yesterday, as I was endeavour- 
ing to eat a sandwich, which I was not permitted to finish. 
Affairs are in a state of great excitement, and most interesting. 
All Sunday our members poured in, and at 4.30 the Carlton 
was full. Lyndhurst arrived rather unexpectedly on the 
Saturday night, and sent for me the following morning. I 
never saw him look so well, he really might have passed for 
five-and-forty, plump and rosy, and most gaily attired, and 
in the highest force and spirits. He was more than kind, 
and after paying a visit to Peel and the Duke, showed at 
the Carlton, where his appearance created great enthusiasm. 
Yesterday, after being obliged to go down to the House at 
eleven, to ensure a house for members to swear, I went to 
a great meeting at Peel's. There must have been 300 
members. Peel addressed, full of spirit, and apparently 
eager for action. Thence again to the House, where we 
were summoned to the Lords at two o'clock. The rush was 
terrific; Abercromby himself nearly thrown down and 
trampled upon, and his mace-bearer banging the members' 
heads with his gorgeous weapon, and cracking skulls with 

' Afterwards Earl and Marquis of Dalhousie, the great Governor-General 
of India. 

2 Brit. Mas., Addit. MSS. 


impunity. I was fortunate enough to escape, however, and 
also to ensure an entry. It was a magnificent spectacle. 
The Queen looked admirably, no feathers but a diamond 
tiara; the peers in robes, the peeresses, and the sumptuous 
groups of courtiers rendered the affair most glittering and 
imposing. The Speech was intentionally vague, that no 
division might possibly occur. All was mystery until five 
o'clock. From the Lords I escaped, almost at the hazard of 
our lives, with Mahon,^ who is now most cordial, and we at 
length succeeded in gaining the Carlton, having several times 
been obliged to call upon the police and military to protect 
us as we attempted to break the line, but the moment the 
magical words 'Member of Parliament' were uttered all the 
authorities came to our assistance, all gave way, and we 
passed everywhere. You never saw two such figures, our 
hats crushed and covered with mud, and the mobocracy envy- 
ing us our privileges, calling out ' Jim Crow ' as we stalked 
through the envious files. 

I went down, after refitting at the Carlton, for about half 
an hour, during which I tried to scribble to you. The seat 
I succeeded in securing behind Peel 1 intend if possible to 
appropriate to myself. The House was so crowded later, that 
the galleries were all full of members ; many unable to obtain 
seats were sitting on the stairs and on chairs and benches 
behind the Speaker's chair. Lyndhurst and many peers were 
in their seats at the bar: the strangers' gallery of course 

The address was moved by Lord Leveson,^ a child appar- 
ently, in a rich diplomatic uniform, and seconded by Gibson 
Craig, a new member in a court dress. Leveson made a 
crammed speech like a schoolboy; Gibson Craig, of whom the 
Whigs had hopes, rose, stared like a stuck pig, and said 
nothing ; his friends cheered, he stammered, all cheered, then 
there was a dead and awful pause, and then he sat down, and 
that was his performance. The address was then read, and 
Wakley ^ made a most Radical speech and amendment,* deter- 
mined to bring affairs to a crisis. He was fluent, flippant, 
and vulgar ; a second-rate hustings orator. He was seconded 
by Molesworth, a most odious speaker, who wearied the 
House. . . . John Russell threw the Radicals over in a most 
matured and decided manner. It was a declaration evidently 

1 Afterwards 5th Earl Stanhope, the well-known historian and biographer 
of Pitt. As a grandson of Lord Carrington's he was a frequent visitor at 

2 Afterwards 2nd Earl Granville. 

3 Thomas Wakley, 1795-1862, medical reformer and founder of the 

* In favour of extension of the franchise. 


the result of a Cabinet decision. The sensation was immense. 
Peel then rose and made one of the finest speeches I ever 
heard, most powerful and even brilliant. He broke the 
centre of the Government party for ever. The Radicals were 
mad. . . . 

So, after all, there was a division on the Address in Queen 
Victoria's first Parliament — 509 to 20. The division took an 
hour. I then left the House at ten o'clock, none of us having 
dined. The tumult and excitement great. I dined, or rather 
supped, at the Carlton with a large party off oysters, Guinness, 
and broiled bones, and got to bed at half-past twelve o'clock. 
Thus ended the most remarkable day hitherto of my life.^ 

[Dec. 5.] 

. . . Yesterday was rather amusing in the House. The 
Sheriffs of London, Sir Bob or Tom, and Sir Moses, and no 
mistake, appeared at the bar in full state to present, according 
to the privilege of the city of London, some petitions, after 
which they took their place under the gallery and listened to 
the debate,^ which turned out to be the Jew question by a 
sidewind. Nobody looked at me, and I was not at all un- 
comfortable, but voted in the majority with the utmost 
sangfroid. . . . 


Disraeli kept silent for something more than a fort- 
night, and then, on the evening of December 7, rose to 
deliver his maiden speech. The subject in debate touched 
the privilege of members, and was personal enough in its 
bearing to arouse a good deal of passion. The general 
election of the preceding summer had not seriously 
affected the numerical strength of parties, but the Mel- 
bourne Government, with its ordeal now behind it, and 
with a friendly Sovereign upon the throne, was in a 

1 Letters, pp. 117-120. 

2 On a Bill intended to relieve Quakers and Moravians from the obli- 
gation to take an oath before entering on municipal offices. Grote having 
moved that it should be an instruction to the (Committee to extend the re- 
lief to persons of all religioiLS denominations, the debate which followed 
was mainly directed to the question of Jewish disabilities ; but the leader of 
the House and the author of the Bill, though declaring themselves favour- 
able to the principle of Jewish relief, argued against the attempt to intro- 
duce it into the present measure as impolitic, and Grote's instruction was 
defeated by a majority of sixteen. 

3 Letters, p. 120. 


stronger position than before, though its position even 
noAv was very far from strong. 

The death of the King was a great blow to what had now 
come to be generally styled the ' Conservative Cause.' It 
was quite unexpected ; within a fortnight of his death, eminent 
persons still believed that ' it was only the hay fever.' Had 
His INIajesty lived until after the then impending registration, 
the Whigs would have been again dismissed. Nor is there 
any doubt that, under these circumstances, the Conservative 
Cause would have secured for the new ministers a Parliamen- 
tary majority.^ 

The spirits of the Tories had risen high during the 
English elections ; but the Irish returns had robbed them 
of their majority, and, exasperated at seeing their hopes 
defeated in a second Parliament by O'Connell and his 
'tail,' they opened a subscription for the promotion of 
petitions in Irish constituencies represented by Repealers. 
Burdett, among other English members of the House, 
ostentatiously supported this subscription with his purse 
and with his influence ; and Smith O'Brien, the same who 
at a later day was to gain a luckless notoriety in another 
field, and whose own seat was now in danger, brought 
the matter before the House, complaining of Burdett's 
conduct, and moving for a committee of inquiry. A 
long debate ensued, in the course of which O'Connell 
spoke, and was to have been answered by Lord Stanley ; 
but while O'Connell was on his legs, Disraeli, it is said,^ 
went up to Stanley and obtained from him permission 
to follow his old antagonist. With his un-English ap- 
pearance, dandified dress, affected manner, and elaborated 
style, Disraeli was hardly likely at the first attempt to 
win the favour of the House of Commons, nor in that 
jealous assembly would his outside reputation either as a 
novelist or as a hustings orator do anything to help him. 
In the ordinary course, however, he would have been 
certain of a hearing ; but he had gone out of his way to 
provoke the hostility of the Irish, on whom the traditions 

1 Coningsby, Bk. V. ch. 2. « Kebbel's Life of Lord Derby, p. 73. 


of the House were least likely to impose restraint. ' We 
shall meet again at Philippi' had been his challenge to 
O'Connell, and by rising after O'Connell he had been 
careful to ensure that the challenge should be remem- 
bered. He began with the usual appeal for the indulgence 
which the House was in the habit of allowing to those who 
for the first time solicited its attention. He then took 
up a point in the speech of 'the hon. and learned 
member for Dublin ' (O'Connell) ; and when he described 
that speech as a ' rhetorical medley,' the House laughed, 
and it laughed again and louder when he alluded to some 
subscription, with which O'Connell himself had been con- 
nected, as 'a project of majestic mendicancy.' A hostile 
note soon began to be mingled with the laughter, but for 
a time the orator was able to proceed, and on the whole 
not without effect. Presently, however, the hostility 
became more marked, and he was constrained to renew 
his plea for indulgence : 

I shall not trouble the House at any length. I do not affect 
to be insensible to the difficulty of my position, and I shall be 
very glad to receive indulgence even from the hon. members 
opposite. If, however, hon. gentlemen do not wish to hear 
me, I will sit down without a murmur. 

For a minute or two there was comparative calm, but 
a declaration that since the Reform Bill 'the stain of 
boroughmongering had only assumed a deeper and 
darker hue,' and that intimidation was more highly 
organised than even under the old system, awoke the storm 
anew. ' Hisses, groans, hoots, catcalls, drumming with 
the feet, loud conversation, and imitation of animals,' ^ 
are among the noises recorded as coming from the Irish 
quarter of the House. Disraeli cannot have been much 
surprised, for he told his constituents later that he had 
been warned of the reception he would meet with, and 
that the warnings had only impelled him to face the 
ordeal the sooner. At all events he kept his temper. 
' I wish,' he pleaded, ' I could induce the House to give 
1 Hitchman's Life of Lord Beaconsfield, I., p. 134. 

10 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

me five minutes more ; ' but the only response was uproar, 
and when, to enforce his chiims to a hearing, he tried to 
put himself forward as virtually representative of the 
new members of the House, he was rewarded with ' bursts 
of laughter.' ' Now why smile ? Why envy me?' was 
his good-humoured retort. ' Why should not I, too, have 
a tail, if it be only for a single night ? ' And at this 
sally we are told the laughter was long and general. 
Henceforth the speech becomes almost unintelligible. 
' I determined,' he explained to his constituents later, 
' to be on my legs exactly the period I intended my 
speech should occupy. I succeeded, sometimes in com- 
parative calm, sometimes the cheers of friends joining 
with the yelling of foes, sometimes in a scene of tumult 
indescribable ; but I stood erect, and when I sat down I 
sent them my defiance.' As he drew towards the close 
he embarked on an elaborate period, wliich had no doubt 
been prepared for use as a peroration, and which, be- 
ginning with a classical allusion to the ' amatory eclogue ' 
between ' the noble Tityrus of the Treasury Bench [Lord 
John Russell] and the learned Daphne [? Daphnis] of 
Liskeard [Charles Buller],' whose '■ amantium irce^ had 
resulted, as he expected, in an ' amoris integration'' ended 
with a picture of ' the noble lord from his pedestal of 
power wielding in one hand the keys of St. Peter and 

waving with the other ' : but the picture remained 

unfinished, the conclusion of the sentence being lost 
in shouts of laughter. 'Now, Mr. Speaker,' he pro- 
ceeded, when his voice could be heard again, ' see 
the philosophical prejudices of man. That image I 
should have thought, when I was about to complete it, 
might have been much admired. I would have cheered 
it heartily if it had come from the lips of a political 
opponent ; and I would gladly hear a cheer, even though 
it should proceed from such a party.' The time he had 
allotted himself had now expired. ' I hope I may thank 
hon. gentlemen opposite for the sincerity of their expres- 
sions of approbation as well as disapprobation. I am not 

1837] FAILURE 11 

at all surprised at the reception I have experienced. I 
have begun several things many times, and I have often 
succeeded at the last — though many had predicted that I 
must fail, as they had done before me.' (Cries of ' Ques- 
tion, question!' and 'Hear, hear, hear!') And then, in 
a voice which, by the testimony of every witness, rose 
high above the clamour, and which one even describes as 
' almost terrific ' : ' I sit down now, but the time will 
come when you will hear me.' ^ 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Dec. 8, 1837. 

I made my maiden speech last night, rising very late after 
O'Connell, but at the request of my party and the full sanction 
of Sir Robert Peel. As I wish to give you an exact idea of 
what occurred, I state at once that my debut was a failure, 
so far that I could not succeed in gaining an opportunity of 
saying what I intended; but the failure was not occasioned 
by my breaking down or any incompetency on my part, but 
from the physical powers of my adversaries. I can give you 
no idea how bitter, how factious, how unfair they were. It 
was like my first debut at Aylesbury, and perhaps in that sense 
may be auspicious of idtimate triumph in the same scene. I 
fought through all with undaunted pluck and unruffled temper, 
made occasionally good isolated hits when there was silence, 
and finished with spirit when I found a formal display was 
ineffectual. My party backed me well, and no one with more 
zeal and kindness than Peel, cheering me repeatedly, which 
is not his custom. The uproar was all organised by the Rads 
and the Repealers. They formed a compact body near the 
bar of the House and seemed determined to set me down, but 
that they did not do. I have given you a most impartial 
account, stated indeed against myself. 

In the lobby at the division, Chandos, who was not near me 
while speaking, came up and congratulated me. I replied 
that I thought there was no cause for congratulations, and 
muttered ' Failure ! ' ' No such thing ! ' said Chandos ; ' you 
are quite wrong. I have just seen Peel, and I said to him, 
"Now tell me exactly what you think of D." Peel replied, 
" Some of my party were disappointed and talk of failure. 
I say jiist the reverse. He did all that he could do under the 

1 For the concluding portion of the speech I have used the report in the 
Mirror of Parliament, which is at once the fullest and the most intelligible. 

12 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

circumstances. I say anything but failure ; he must make 
his way." ' 

The Government and their retainers behaved well. The 
Attorney-General, to whom I never spoke in my life, came up 
to me in the lobby and spoke to me with great cordiality. 
He said, "Now, Mr. Disraeli, could you just tell me how you 
finished one sentence in your speech, we are anxious to know 

— " In one hand the keys of St. Peter, and in the other " ? ' 

' In the other the cap of liberty. Sir John.' He smiled, and 
said, ' A good picture.' I replied, * But your friends will not 
allow me to finish my pictures.' ' I assure you,' he said, ' there 
was the liveliest desire to hear you from us. It was a party 
at the bar, over whom we had no control ; but you have 
nothing to be afraid of.' Now I have told you all. 

Yours, D. — in very good spirits.^ 

Disraeli's many enemies in the press made the most, 
of course, of his ' failure,' though The Times went out of 
its way to soothe his wounded feelings by describing the 
speech as eloquent. We have independent testimony to 
the warmth of Peel's encouragement. ' Sir Robert Peel, 
who very rarely cheers any honourable gentleman, not 
even the most able and accomplished speaker of his own 
party, greeted Mr. Disraeli's speech with a prodigality of 
applause which must have been very trying to the worthy 
baronet's lungs. . . . He repeatedly turned round his 
head, and, looking the youthful orator in the face, cheered 
him in the most stentorian tones.' ^ Stanley, on the other 
hand, who rose immediately after Disraeli, and who, as 
there is reason to believe, was at this time deeply preju- 
diced against him, made no allusion whatever to the 
remarkable scene of which the House had just been 

From Lord Lyndhurst. 

My dear Diskaeli, 

Why have you not called upon me ? The scamps of 
Radicals were determined that you should not speak. I am 
sure you have the courage to have at them again. You are 
sure to succeed in spite of their bullying. 

Ever yours, 


1 Letters, pp. 120-122. « Grant's British Senate in 1838, II., p. 334. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

Monday [Dec. 11]. 

I dined with Bulwer on Saturday, and, strange enough, 
met Sheil. I should have been very much surprised, had I 
not arrived first and been apprised. It thus arose : on 
Saturday, Bulwer walked into the Athenaeum ; Sheil, who 
has just recovered from the gout, was lounging in an easy 
chair reading the newspaper; around him was a knot of low 
Rads (we might guess them) abusing me and exulting in the 
discrimination of the House. Probably they thought they 
pleased Sheil. Bulwer drew near, but stood ai)art. Sud- 
denly Sheil threw down the paper and said in his shrill voice, 
' Now, gentlemen, I have heard all you have to say, and, what 
is more, I heard this same speech of Mr. Disraeli, and I tell 
you this : if ever the spirit of oratory was in a man, it is in 
that man. Nothing can prevent him from being one of the 
first speakers in the House of Commons (great confusion). 
Ay ! I know something about that place, I think, and I tell 
you what besides, that if there had not been this interruption, 
Mr. Disraeli might have made a failure ; I don't call this a 
failure, it is a crush. My debut was a failure, because I was 
heard, but my reception was supercilious, his malignant. A 
debut should be dull. The House will not allow a man to be 
a wit and an orator, unless they have the credit of finding it 
out. There it is.' You may conceive the sensation that this 
speech made : I heard of it yesterday, from Eaton, Winslow, 
and several other quarters. The crowd dispersed, but Bulwer 
drew near, and said to Sheil: 'D. dines with me to-day; 
would you like to meet him ? ' 'In spite of my gout,' said 
Sheil, ' I long to know him ; I long to tell him what I think.' 

So we met : there were besides only D'Eyncourt,^ always 
friendly to me, Mackinnon, a Tory, and one Quin^ of the 
Danube. Sheil was most charming, and took an opportunity 
in conversation with me of disburthening his mind of the 
subject with which it was full. He insisted continually on 
his position that the clamorous reception was fortunate, ' for,' 
said he, 'if you had been listened to, what would have been 
the result? You would have done what I did; you would 
have made the best speech that you ever would have made : 
it would have been received frigidly, and you would have 

1 C. Tennyson D'Eyncourt, 1784-1861, Whig member for Lambeth, and 
Alfred Tennyson's uncle. 

2 No doubt MichaelJoseph Quin, traveller and journalist, who a couple 
of years before had published a book entitled A Steam Voyage doxon the 

14 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

despaired of yourself. I did. As it is, you have shown to 
the House that you have a fine organ, that you have an un- 
/iniited command of language, that you have courage, temper 
and readiness. Now get rid of your genius for a session. 
Speak often, for you must not show yourself cowed, but speak 
shortly. Be very quiet, try to be dull, only argue and reason 
imperfectly, for if you reason with precision, they will think 
j-ou are trying to be witty. Astonish them by speaking on 
subjects of detail. Quote figures, dates, calculations. And 
in a short time the House will sigh for the wit and eloquence, 
which they all know are in you ; they will encourage you to 
pour thein forth, and then you will have the ear of the House 
and be a favourite.' 

I think that altogether this is as interesting a rencontre as 
I have ever experienced. 

Yesterday I dined with Hope,^ a sumptuous, but rather dull, 
party. Strangford and Cecil Forester,- Eaton, Beresford, Stan- 
ley of Cumberland, Baring, late of Yarmouth. On Saturday 
I dine with Feel, his first party. 



Shell was unquestionably right. Disraeli had made the 
blunder of trying to take the House by storm without 
giving it time to become accustomed to the peculiarities 
of his manner, and only the hostility of the Radicals and 
O'Connellites had saved him from genuine failure. ' I 
am too far out of the world to know anything that's in it,' 
wrote his father, ' but I am always fearful that " theatrical 
graces " will not do for the English Commons. Whether 
any display of that nature you may have indulged in, I 
know not. Your own observation of what is about you 
must be your instructor.' The unfair turbulence of his 
enemies had not only averted ridicule, but had created a 
feeling in his favour ; and when, urged on, in his own 
phrase, by ' ambition, his constituents, and the hell of 
previous failure,' ^ he next addressed the House, the result 
was very different. 

1 Henry Hope of Deepdene, 1808-1862, eldest son of the author of 

2 Afterwards 3rd Lord Forester, 1807-1886. 
^ Coningsby, Bk. I. ch. 3. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

Dec. 18, 1837. 

Nothing daunted, and acting on the advice of Sheil (a 
strange Parliamentary mentor for me after all), I spoke again 
last night and with complete success. It was on the Copy- 
right Bill. The House was not very full, but all the Cabinet 
Ministers and oflficials were there, and all our principal men. 
Talfourd,^ who had already made a long speech (his style 
flowery, with a weak and mouthing utterance), proposed the 
Copyright Bill very briefly, having spoken on it last session. 
Bulwer followed him, and confined himself to the point of 
international copyright, which called up Poulett Thomson. 
Then Peel on the copyright of art ; and then I rose. 

I was received with the utmost curiosity and attention. 
As there had been no great discussion I determined not to 
be tempted into a speech, which everyone expected of course I 
rose to make. All I aimed at was to say something pointed 
and to the purpose. My voice, in spite of our doings at Maid- 
stone, was in perfect condition. I suggested a clause to Tal- 
f ourd, with the idea of which I had been furnished by Colburn. 
I noticed that the subject had already been done so much 
justice to on other occasions that I should not trouble the 
House, but I had been requested to support this Bill by many 
eminent persons interested in its success. Thus far I was 
accompanied by continual ' hear, hears,' and I concluded 
thus : ' I am glad to hear from her Majesty's Government 
that the interests of literature have at length engaged their 
attention. It has been the boast of the Whig party, and a 
boast not without foundation, that in many brilliant periods 
of our literary annals they have been the patrons of letters 
(' Hear, hear ' from John Russell & Co.). As for myself, I 
trust that the age of literary patronage has passed (' Hear 
hear ' from leader of the Rads), and it will be honorable to 
the present Government if, under its auspices, it be succeeded 
by that of legislative protection.' I sat down with a general 

Talfourd, in reply, noticed all the remarks' of the preceding 
members, and when he came to me said he should avail him- 
self of ' the excellent suggestion of the honorable member 
for Maidstone, himself one of the greatest ornaments of our 
modern literature.' Here Peel cheered loudly, and indeed 
throughout my remarks he backed me. So on the whole 

1 Serjeant Talfourd, afterwards a Judge, but better known as the author 
of Ion. His efforts ' in behalf of English literature and of those who devote 
themselves to the most precarious of all pursuits ' had just won for him 
the dedication of Pickwick. 

16 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

there was glorification. Everybody congratulated me. 
Colonel Lygon said, ' AVell, you have got in your saddle again, 
and now you may ride away.' Even Granville Somerset ^ said, 
' I never heard a few sentences so admirably delivered. You 
will allow me to say so, after having been twenty-five years in 
Parliament.' But all agree that I managed in a few minutes 
by my voice and manner to please everyone in the House. I 
don't care about the meagre report, for I spoke to the House 
and not to the public. 

I have no time to tell you about Maidstone, except that 
the banker gave me a banquet more splendid than many I 
have had in this town, that we had the largest meeting on 
record, and that I made a successful speech ; that Wyndham 
Lewis is infinitely more warm than ever, and my constituents 
far more enthusiastic, and it is my firm opinion that the next 
time I rise in the House, which will be very soon in February, 
I shall sit down amid loud cheers, for I really think, on the 
whole, though I have not time now to give you the reasons, 
that the effect of my debut, and the circumstances that 
attended it, will ultimately be favorable to my career. Next 
to undoubted success the best thing is to make a great noise, 
and the many articles that are daily written to announce my 
failure only prove that I have not failed. One thing is 
curious, that the opinion of the mass is immensely affected 
by that of their leaders. I know a hundred little instances 
daily, which show me that what Peel, and Shell, and other 
leading men have said, have already greatly influenced those 
who are unable to form opinions for themselves. — Love to 

One eloquent sentence in the speech at the Maidstone 
banquet deserves to be rescued from oblivion : ' By the 
Conservative Cause I mean the splendor of the Crown, 
the lustre of the peerage, the privileges of the Commons, 
the rights of the poor. I mean that harmonious union, 
that magnificent concord of all interests, of all classes, on 
which our national greatness and prosperity depends.' 
' When I meet you again as my constituents,' he had 
told the electors of Maidstone during the contest in July, 
*not a person will look upon me without some degree of 

1 Lord Granville Somerset, 1792-1848, second son of the 6th Duke of 
Beaufort. He had held office in Peel's administration of 183-435. 

2 Letters, pjx 125, 126. 


satisfaction, perhaps some degree of pride.' His first 
visit to them was paid under the shadow of his recent 
failure, but his eloquence and spirit made it none the less 
a triumph. 

Parliament adjourned for Christmas under the shadow 
cast by the news of the outbreak of rebellion in Canada, 
and the holiday was shortened accordingly. Disraeli 
spent it at Bradenham, busily plying his pen, one fruit 
of his labours being a series of papers in The Times under 
the title of ' Old England,' and with the signature ' Coeur 
de Lion.' They are discourses on the familiar text, ' How 
is the King's Government to be carried on ? ' — ' great 
question of a great man, true hero-question ' ; or, ' How 
is the Queen's Empire to be maintained ? ' — Disraeli's 
own variant on the Duke of Wellington's formula ; but, 
save for an occasional indication that the writer had 
been reading Carlyle, they are in no way remarkable. 

To Mrs. Wyndhain Lewis. 


Friday [Jan. 5, 1838]. 

My dear Mrs. Wyndham, 

I was very sorry not to see you this morning, but very 
imprudently I sat up late at night writing, which never does 
for me. Slept little, and only towards morn, and woke 
wretchedly shattered. I hope you have had not a very dis- 
agreeable journey to town, and found Wyndham well. 

We miss you here all very much; everything seems flat, 
and everybody dull and dispirited, almost as dull and dispirited 
as you think me. 

Believe me, 

Ever yours, with great regard, 


In the middle of January the House met again. Dis- 
raeli was no amateur politician seeking in public affairs 
distraction for the intervals between more strenuous 
amusements. He had devoted himself in all seriousness 
to a political career, and politics henceforth were to be 
the main business of his life. ' The greatest opportunity 
that can be offered to an Englishman was now his — a 

VOL. II — c 

18 THE MAIDEN SPEECH. [chap, i 

seat in the House of Commons ;'i and having won this 
opportunity by much toil and effort, he was determined 
to make the most of it. ' Let me tell you how to get on 
in the House of Commons,' he said to a young member 
twenty years later. ' When the House is sitting be 
always in your place ; when it is not sitting read Han- 
sard.' ^ We need not suppose that the author of this 
maxim had submitted himself too literally to the terrible 
discipline which it recommends, but he fulfilled the first 
condition of Parliamentary success by throwing himself 
with zeal into the life and work of the Hous3. Luckily, 
in these years of freedom from responsibility he found in 
the House of Commons abundant time for writing letters. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Thursday, Jan. 18, 1838. 
We have adjourned until Monday, after two nights of the 
most feeble debates that can well be fancied. The frigid 
genius of Canada pervaded our deliberations, and even Sir 
Robert appeared to sink under it, for I never recollect him so 
inefficient. I have no news to tell you, except that I shall go 
and see Kean to-morrow with Mrs. W. L., provided she get a 
good warm box. 

Jan. 20. 

Town is very dull ; everybody is frozen to death. 
Brougham's speech^ on Thursday was most clever, as good as 
his old House of Commons harangues. Our peers mustered 
thick, and seemed 'raiching mallecho,' but the Duke of Wel- 
lington rose and spoilt all with his generosity and all that. 
Great disgust in Tory ranks, even among the highest. Duke 
supposed to be passe, and to like being buttered with Whig 
laudation. . . . 

1 went to see young Kean last night, and the theatre was 
full in spite of the frost, which thins all the other houses ; but 
I will not criticise him, for one word describes all — mediocrity. 
We went with the Horace Twisses ; * Lord Chesterfield's box, 
a capital fire, our own tea, and really very amusing. 


^ Endymion, ch. 52. 

2 Lord BeaconsfieUr s Iriah Policy., by Sir J. Pope Hennessy. 
8 Debate on Canadian Rebellion. 

* Horace Twiss, 1787-1849, lawyer, wit, politician, and journalist, 
nephew of Mrs. Siddons and father-in-law of J. T. Delane. 


Library of House of Commons, 

Jan. 23. 

To be impartial, which one should be when a man with 
brains is concerned, Roebuck^ yesterday was not equal to the 
occasion. Sharp and waspish, he would have made a good 
petulant Opposition speech, but as the representative of a 
nation arraigning a Ministry of high crimes and misdemeanours, 
he was rather ridiculous : the subsequent debate was, on the 
whole, interesting. Sir G. Grey,^ who had gained a reputation 
by the Canada revolt, contrived pretty well to lose it. Lord 
Francis Egerton spoke with all the effect which a man of con- 
siderable talent and highly cultivated mind, backed by the 
highest rank and 60,000 Z. per annum, would naturally com- 
mand. He has a bad delivery, a good voice, but no manage- 
ment or modulation of it, and the most ungainly action con- 
ceivable ; nevertheless, on the whole impressive, and his style 
rich and somewhat ornate. Leader^ ludicrously imitated 
Roebuck for more than an hour, and then the only feature 
was Pakington's* debut, who sat next to me. His friends 
expected a great deal from him, and they announce that he 
quite fulfilled their expectations. He was confident, fluent, 
and commonplace, and made a good chairman of quarter 
sessions speech. *It was the best speech that he ever will 
make,' said Sugden, 'and he has been practising it before the 
grand jury for the last twenty years.' However, I supported 
him very zealously, and he went to bed thinking he was an 
orator, and wrote to Mrs. Pakington, I've no doubt, to that 


I went to a most recherche concert at Parnther's, where I 
found all the elite of town, and where the season commenced, 
as all agreed, very brilliantly. The Duke was there, looking 
very well in his garter, riband, and the golden fleece. There 
were indeed as many stars as in an Arabian story — 

Ye stars, which are the poetry of dress ! ^ 
I can scarcely tell you who was not there, for I saw Lans- 

1 He was heard at the bar as agent for the House of Assembly of Lower 
Canada against the second reading of the Canada Bill. 

2 Under-Secretary for the Colonies. 
8 A well-known Radical member. 

* Afterwards as Sir John Pakington a Cabinet colleague of Disraeli's. 
6 ' It is pleasant,' says St. Barbe in Endymion (ch. 33), ' to talk to a man 
with a star. 

"Ye stars, which are the poetry of heaven," 

Byron wrote [ Childe Harold, III. 88] ; a silly line ; he should have written, 

"Ye stars, which are the poetry of dress." ' 

20 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

downes, Salisburys, Stuart de Rothesay, Duke of Beaufort, 
Douro, Cantalupe, Fitzroy, Loftus, &c., and Mrs. W. L., who 
was very proud, evideutly, of being there. But the most 
picturesque group was the Rothschilds, the widow still in 
mourning, two sons, some sisters, and, above all, the young 
bride,^ or rather wife, from Frankfort, universally admired, 
tall, graceful, dark, and clear, picturesquely dressed, a robe of 
yellow silk, a hat and feathers, with a sort of JSevign^ beneath 
of magnificent pearls ; quite a Murillo. 

I send you two good franks, the handwriting of two of the 
greatest ruffians in the House, and given to me by both of them 
when very drunk. They are ' Tailers,' ^ but have taken a sort 
of blackguard fancy to me, and very civil.^ 


We had a queer but amusing party at the Twisses. It was 
really given to Mr. and Mrs. Barnes ; the W. L.'s were got to 
meet them, and the rest were men — Lord Darlington, Lowther, 
G. Somerset, Lord Reay, H. Hardinge, Henry Baring, &c., 
and myself. The dinner was good for Twiss, and everything 
went off well ; Mrs. Barnes, who looked, as H. B. said, like a 
lady in a pantomime, very funny, surrounded by sons of dukes 
and privy councillors. 

The weather was so bad, the streets being nearly half a foot 
deep in slough and snow, that I doubt whether I could have 
got to Salisbury House, short as was the distance, had not 
G. Somerset taken me. It was a most brilliant party, and 
the first time the world has been received there since the 
alterations which commenced since the old lady's death. 
Such a revolution! There is not a vestige of the ancient 
interior ; even the staircase is entirely new and newly placed. 
There had been a grand dinner given previously to Lord 
and Lady^ Lyndhurst — to meet the Duke, the Wharncliffes, 
Ellenborough, Pozzo di Borgos,* Francis Egertons, and other 
grandees. The assembly was most select. Lady Lyndhurst 
made a favourable impression, and afforded me an agreeable 
surprise. I was of course presented to her. ... L. is in 
high spirits, but if he have not a son, I think he will sink 
under the disappointment. He talks of nothing else. 

1 Baroness Lionel de Rothschild. 

2 I.e., O'Connellites. 3 Letters, pp. 127-131. 

* Lyndhurst's recently-married second wife, Georgiana, daughter of 
Lewis Goldsmith of Paris. She lived on into the twentieth century, sur- 
viving her husband nearly forty years. 

^ Count Pozzo di Borgo, the Corsican, famous as friend and enemy of 
Napoleon, was the Russian Ambassador in London. 


Lady Salisbury, to whom I had never been introduced, 
received me with great cordiality, and talked to me a great 
deal. I find I owe the invitation to Lady Londonderry — at 
least, to her mention of me. I knew almost every man 
there. . . . 



On Saturday I dined with George Wombwell,^ and met 
De L'Isle, Adolphus Fitzclarence, Auriol, and Hope. I drank 
a great deal too much wine, but a great deal less than my host, 
and his Jiclus Adolphus. I got away to the Salisburys, where 
there was a most brilliant and agreeable assembly.^ 


I dined with the Powerscourts ; Lady P.* is without excep- 
tion the most beautiful woman in London. The party was 
good, in some instances rather funny — the Murchisons and 
Mrs. Somerville,^ Mahon, Redesdale,^ and Bankes.^ Murchi- 
son ® a stiff geological prig, and his wife silent. Mrs. Somer- 
ville grown very old and not very easy, but Bankes was so 
very agreeable that I hardly ever was at a more pleasant 

[ Undated.] 

The evening at the Salisburys last Saturday was very 
brilliant; so many beautiful women, and among them the 
Princess of Capua. Her beaaty is remarkable, added to in 
some degree by her gorgeous and fantastic dress. It was 
entirely of green velvet and gold; her headdress of the 
same material, although in shape that of a contadina. Miss 
Burdett Coutts was also there, a very quiet and unpretending 
person ; not unlike her father, nevertheless. Lady Aldboro' 
made her first appearance for the season, and was very witty 
and amusing, and looked as fresh as ever. Lady Stanhope^ 
is the very picture of Bob Smith, but I forgot you know her 
. . . She has a very pretty daughter, Lady Wilhelmina. 

1 Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 

2 Said to be the original of Mr. Cassilis in Coningsby. 

3 Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 

* She was a daughter of the 3rd Earl of Roden's, and in 1846 married as 
her second husband Disraeli's friend Castlereagh, afterwards 4th Marquis 
of Londonderry. 

^ The well-known scientific writer. 

6 The 2nd Lord Redesdale, raised to an earldom on Disraeli's recom- 
mendation in 1877. 

■^ No doubt George Bankes, 1788-1856, the last of the Cursitor Barons of 
the Exchequer. 

8 The well-known geologist, afterwards Sir Roderick Murchison. 

9 A daughter of the 1st Lord Carrington's. 

22 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

One of the prettiest and most interesting women I ever met, 
is Lady Powerscourt. I forgot to notice the Prince of Capua, 
a savage, dull-looking fellow covered with moustache, and 
stai's. He is entirely ruled by his wife. 

March 15. 

I write to say I heard yesterday of the sudden death of my 
colleague. I have seen Mrs. Wyndhani ; she is, of course, at 
present, extremely overwhelmed. She was sitting in the room 
with him when he died.^ 

On the day on which this last letter was written Dis- 
raeli spoke in a debate on a motion by Charles Villiers 
directed against the Corn Laws, and greatly distinguished 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Friday [March 16]. 
My Dearest, 

You will hear with delight that last night, very unexpect- 
edly, for I had given up all thought of speaking, and suffering 
naturally not a little both mentally and physically, I rose and 
made a most successful speech. Indeed, it was not merely 
a very good speech, but it was by far, and by all sides agreed, 
the very best speech of the evening, which it is always a great 
thing to achieve, as then nobody else is talked of. 

I was so disturbed by deputations from Maidstone, rival 
candidates for the vacant post, the arrival of Jem, &c., &c., 
having been twice called out of the House to the Carlton, and 
having nearly lost my voice which I had been cooking with 
so much care for days, that at six o'clock, when I at last sat 
down in my place, I had quite given up all idea of speaking, 
but finding the House very thin, and getting more composed, 
I began to think I would take an opportunity of making a 
speech merely for the press. Even with this humble view, I 
was unfortunate ; thin as the House was, it seemed to consist 
only of speakers ; 12 or 14 fellows were on their legs at the 
same time, and Darby and Gaily Knight, between whom 
I sat, were always up at the same time. In this state I went 
to our front and table bench, which was clear of all the great 
guns, who had gone to dinner, except Chandos, and told him 
my despair, and that I had given up the affair as a bad job. 
He recommended me to rise where I was, and boldly speak 
from the floor. Even here I could not catch the Speaker's 
eye, and time flew on, and the great guns one by one returned 
— Peel, Graham, Goulburn, Hardinge, Herries, &c., &c., and 

1 Letters, pp. 135, 137. 


I was obliged to shift my plan and my place, till I at last had 
none at all. About 10 o'clock, I think, when standing behind 
the Speaker's chair, Hardinge beckoned to me, and I seated 
myself between him and Graham. He wanted to speak about 
moving the new writ for Maidstone. Having got a place, I 
did not leave it, although I ought to have done so, having 
answered his question, and I asked Graham whether he 
would speak. He said No, and recommended me, but very 
kindly, not to try, as he said the House was noisy, tired, and 
uninterested, and wanted to divide. So I gave it up for ever, 
but just as I rose to quit my seat. Clay, who was speaking, sat 
down, and the Speaker, imagining that I was going to rise 
to speak, called my name. 

I was in for it, put my hat down, advanced to the table, and 
dashed along. I got the House still in a minute, I was heard 
with the greatest attention and good humour immediately, 
succeeded in all my points, though of course I made a much 
shorter speech than I would have done at an early hour and 
a thin house, — and at length sat down amid loud cheers, and 
really principally from the Government side. Xo one cheered 
me more vehemently than Hobhouse, who was a little drunk : 
Poulett Thomson paid great attention, and Cutlar Fergusson,^ 
who cheered very much also, came up to me in the lobby, and 
spoke as warmly as you possibly can imagine. I had no 
acquaintance with him, which 1 had with Parker of the 
Treasury, a slight one, but he came up and shook hands with 
me, and said, 'All our people agree it was one of the best 
speeches ever made on the subject.' 

Lord John said nothing, but sat with his arms folded, and 
watched me very attentively. I thought he looked malignant, 
and there was a smile on his face ; but I did him injustice, for 
I walked home with Ossulston, who had only come down for 
the division, and he said to me, ' I vinderstand you have made 
a most brilliant speech to-night ; I wish I had been down.' I 
replied I supposed he had heard it from some friend. * Oh,' 
he answered, 'Johnny, I have only seen Johnny, and he says 
it was the best thing he had heard for a long time ; a great 
thing for one so scant of laudation. . . .' 

As for our own people, Graham, Goulburn and Hardinge 
and good old Herries shook hands with me immediately. 
When I had regained my place, I was removed too far for 
notice from Chandos and Sir Kobert Peel, but I heard their 
cheers. As for all the other congratulations I received, it is 
impossible to enumerate them. In the lobby, all the squires 
came up to shake hands with me, and thank me for the good 

1 The Judge Advocate-Geueral. 

24 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

service. They were so grateful, and well they might be, for 
certainly they had nothing to say for themselves. I think 
Sugden was more pleased than anyone. I saw Chandos after- 
wards at the Carlton, where I received great congratulations 
from everybody. I need not say he triumphed. Even Har- 
court tried to say something pleasant, and everybody appeared 
to sympathise, except Sir W. Y.,^ who grinned much the same 
ghastly smile as he would at Aylesbury. All our party noticed 
the great courtesy of the Whigs and the other side generally 
to me. In fact, I think I have become very popular in the 
House ; I ascribe it to the smoking-room. . . . 

Strange to say, I got Jem in the House, and missed him after 
my speech; I hope he heard it. Chandos detected him early 
in the evening. 

* Disraeli, is your brother here ? ' 


'I thought so (smiling); no mistaking him.' 

He asked me at the Carlton where he was. I said I had 
missed him. ' I suppose he has gone to market,^ says Chandos. 

I have scribbled all this nonsense in marvellous haste. 


From Sarah Disraeli. 

{March 17, 1838.] 
My Dearest, 

We were grateful for your long despatch. Jem told 
us enough to make us desire to hear what you felt. Now 
that 400 have heard you, I seem to care for nothing. It was 
James's debut in the House, so that we did not know how 
much to trust to him. He describes the rush into the House 
as prodigious when you began to speak, and then the pro- 
found silence, and then all the cheers. He heard many people 
speak of you, rejoicing in your speech and your reception ; 
and once before you spoke Castlereagh rushed in, saying, 
' Has Disraeli been up ? ' It seemed by his account of all 
the sensation produced that you were quite as great a man at 
Westminster as at Aylesbury. . . . 
God bless you, dearest ! 

Yours affectionately, 

S. D. 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 

Sunday [March 25]. 

lam at this moment off for Maidstone, — that Maidstone 
where we have been so happy! They have sent for me sud- 

i Sir "William Young, one of the members for Bucks. Chandos and 
Harcourt were the others. 


denly, and I must go; with a dull spirit and a heavy heart, I 
need not assure you, I send you this line because you will 
not hear from me for a day or two, but I hope on my return 
my messenger will assure me that you are as well, not as we 
could wish, but as we can hope. God bless you, dear friend. 



April 16. 

Exmouth ^ and myself arrived here for dinner on Saturday, 
and found them all well, but my father this morning is menaced 
by a fit of gout ; at least, I hope so, and that it is nothing 
worse, but he leads such an extraordinary life that he never 
complains of the slightest ache, that I am not miserably 
nervous. There was one gleam of sunshine as we approached 
Bradenham which welcomed us ; but otherwise the weather is 
cold and gusty, and there is not the slightest evidence of 
springlike vegetation. I agree with Gaily Knight, who told 
me the other day that he was no admirer of Eastering. At 
Whitsun one has a better chance of sunbeams and blossom. . . . 

While I have been writing this, the whole county has 
become as white as a twelfth cake. Jem, who is in the room, 
with six or seven dogs, desires his love to Mrs. Wyndham, 
and makes such a barking that I can scarcely write. 

There is no news from this place, which of course is little 
altered, though somewhat improved, particularly a new walk 
thro' the woods devised and cut by Jem, and which you 
will like very much. 

All send their love to you from this roof. 



April 19, 1838. 
My father's health gives me the greatest possible uneasiness. 
Although an eldest son, it seems to me that I could scarcely 
survive his loss. The first wish of my life has ever been that 
after all his kindness to me, and all the anxiety which I have 
cost him, he should live to see me settled and steady, and suc- 
cessful to his heart's content. I cannot describe to you my 
misery at the thought of losing him; but he complains of his 
head, and many other strange symptoms, and yesterday when 
we were alone he neai-ly fell. 

Bradenham House, 

Simday [April 22]. 

I shall be in town on Tuesday night, as it is expected that 
Serjeant Talfourd's motion on Copyright will come on on 
Wednesday, and I intend to speak on it. . . . 

1 Third Viscount, 1811-1876, grandson of the victor of Algiers, and a 
good and loyal friend of Disraeli's to the end of his life. 

26 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [cuap. i 

I leave this place with great regret, even tho' the sun do 
not shine. After a week or so, one gets used to quiet habits, 
and feels, as I always do, the charm of domestic bliss. I 
experience a reluctance in once more entering the scene of 
strife and struggle, but after all, like the shower bath, it 
needs only a plunge. I never leave home without feeling as 
I did when I went to school, which is an odd though true 
thing for one to say who has been such a wanderer. A return, 
however, makes me just as nervous. I dread to detect the 
progress of time, and always anticipate misfortune. . . . 

I send you an emblem of the spring-flowers without perfume. 
Farewell ! 



When Talfourd's Copyright Bill came up for second 
reading, Disraeli fulfilled his intention of joining in the 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

[April 26.] 
My Dearest, 

I made a most brilliant and triumphant speech last night 
— unquestionably and agreed upon by all hands the crack 
speech of the night, and everyone who spoke after me, either 
for or against, addressed himself to me ; but of this you 
cannot judge by the reports. C. Wynn, in speaking of South ey, 
confirmed ' the statement in the eloquent speech of the hon. 
member for Maidstone.' Poor little Milnes plastered me with 
compliments, but his own speech was entirely smashed by the 
reporters. The Ministers tried not to make a House. We 
had a sharp run, and I think I may fairly claim carrying the 
measure ; at least Talfourd gave me credit for it, as I sent to 
the Carlton at 9.30, and got down a couple of members and 
absolutely converted Blakemore, if no others. . . . 

The whole day has been passed in receiving compliments on 
my speech. Sir James Graham, who was in the House, was 
really most warm ; but of all this when we meet. 


As the law then stood, copyright subsisted for twenty- 
eight years or the duration of the author's life, whichever 
period was the longer ; and Talfourd's Bill proposed to 
extend it to sixty years from the date of the author's 

iBrit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 

1838] THE COPYlllGIlT BILL 27 

death. 'Literary men,' said Disraeli in the speech of 
which he wrote with so much complacency, 'exercise 
great power, often an irresistible power; and I would 
ask whether it is wise for this House to debar from the 
right of property in their works the creators of opinion.' 
In spite of his persuasive eloquence, the second reading 
was only carried by 39 to 34, and the Bill perished in 

To Mrs. Wyndham Leiois. 


Friday, April 27. 

It is natural, after such severe trials as you have recently 
experienced, and such petty vexations as you are now forced 
to encounter, that you should give way to feelings of loTieli- 
ness and sorrow. It is natural and inevitable ; but you must 
not indulge such sentiments, and you must endeavour not 
to brood over the past. The future for you may yet be full 
of happiness and hope. You are too young to feel that life 
has not yet a fresh spring of felicity in store. Although you 
have few near relations, they are such as are dear to you ; a 
mother whom you love, and a brother to whose return you 
look forward not only with affection, but with the charm and 
excitement of novelty. And I can assure you that you have 
in my family friends in the best and sincerest sense of the 
word, who have from their first acquaintance with you loved 
and appreciated you. 

As for myself, I can truly say, that the severe afflictions 
which you have undergone, and the excellent, and to me un- 
expected, qualities with which you have met them, the talent, 
firmness and sweet temper, will always make me your faithful 
friend, and as far as my advice and assistance and society 
can contribute to your welfare or solace you under these 
severe trials, you may count upon them. For, as you well 
know, I am one of those persons who feel much more deeply 
than I ever express, and if ever I express feelings of regard 
to anyone, my memory assures me that it is never any fault 
of mine if they are not fervently cherished and if they do not 

I fear that you are at present in a miserable circle of narrow- 
minded people, incapable of any generous emotion and any 

1 Talfourd renewed his efforts in subsequent sessions, but liad the mis- 
fortune to encounter the opposition of Macaulay ; and it was not till 1842 
that the Act was passed which remained in force till 1911. The Act of 
1911 grants copyright for a period of fifty years from the author's death. 

28 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

genial sympathy ; but this is an infliction that will not last, 
and I recommend you by all means to command your temper 
and watch over your interests. . . , 

Every paper in London, Radical, Whig, or Tory, has spoken 
of my speech in the highest terms of panegyric, except the 
wretched Standard, which, under the influence of that scoun- 
drel Maginn,^ always attacked me before I was in Parliament, 
and now always passes over my name in silence. . . . Mrs. 
Dawson ^ stopped the carriage in the street yesterday to con- 
gratulate me, and her manner was most hearty and, I think, 
sincere. . . . 

I look forward now with great interest to your return. 
Expedite but do not hasten it. Be active, but do not be in 
a hurry, or you will have to return once more to that odious 
place and those odious persons whom I hope will speedily be 
banished from our memories. 

And now God bless you, and believe me. 

Ever your affectionate friend, 


May 5. 

Town is very agreeable, the weather soft and warm ; and 
I suppose the fields and trees have put on their spring liveries 
these last few days, as well as the households of our fine 
people here. 

Yesterday I dined with the Londonderrys enfamille, and only 
met Lord ^ and Lady Hardwicke ; but it was most agreeable, 
for Lady Hardwicke is without exception the most dramatic 
singer I ever listened to ; her voice, too, is most sweet and 
powerful, and she is so unaffected that she actually sang 
without stopping for so long a time that it was near one when 
our petite comite broke up. I never met persons who seemed 
to enjoy life more, or who seemed fonder of each other, than 
the Hardwickes. I have known Lord H. for some time, and 
met him first at Smyrna when he was only Captain Yorke, 
and always liked him, he is so frank and gay. They asked 
me to dine with them to-morrow, but I am engaged to the 
Salisburys, which I regret. 

All the world is talking of the grand festival which is to 
be given in Merchant Taylors' Hall by the Conservative mem- 
bers of Parliament to Sir Robert Peel. I am, of course, one 
of the hosts. It is to be one of the most magnificent and im- 
portant gatherings ever witnessed. There is a gallery which 

1 See Vol. I., p. 60. 

2 A sister of Sir Robert Peel's and a great friend of Mrs. Wyndham 

3 The 4th Earl. His wife was a daughter of the 1st Lord Ravensworth. 


will hold 70 ladies. Tickets to admit them were offered to 
Lady Peel, but she declined the dangerous honour, confident 
that the selection would create ill feeling: so the 70 ladies' 
tickets are to be balloted for by all the hosts. Every grande 
dame is mad to get a ticket. I know to whom I should venture 
to offer mine were she in London or could go, but I suppose, 
or rather feel, that is impossible. 

The Chesterfields had the audacity to ask 5,000 guineas fo] 
the loan of their house to the Russian Ambassador Extra- 
ordinary,^ and absolutely expected to get it. Lady Jersey 
asked 2,000. Lady Londonderry thought all this house- 
letting infra dig., and had the spirit to write to the Empress, 
who had been most hospitable to herself and Lord L. when in 
Russia, and offered Holdernesse House and the whole establish- 
ment to the Grand Duke, who is coming over ; intending them- 
selves to go into a hired house. The offer was declined by 
the Empress in a letter in English beautifully and correctly 
written, both in style and calligraphy, and in which she signs 
herself 'With reiterated love, your affectionate Alexandra.' 

On the 19th Lord Chandos gives a grand banquet to the 
Duke of Wellington, Lord Lyndhurst, Lord and Lady London- 
derry, Lord and Lady Jersey, Sir Robert and Lady Peel, Sir 
James and Lady Graham, and Lord Stanley. You will be 
rather surprised, I think — at least I was — that I should be 
invited to it : but Chandos is a good friend, and greatly tri- 
umphs in my success in the House. 

I must cease at present all this gossip, which I thought 
would amuse you after your journey. Pray come to town 
cheerful and happy, and believe in a happy and brilliant future 

Your affectionate 


Sunday [May 20]. 

Your exquisite offering arrived just in time, and added by 
its opportune arrival to all the grace of the present. I assure 
you that with unaffected delight I felt that for the first time 
in public I wore your chains. I hope you are not ashamed of 
your slave. 

I am sorry to say the Duke [of Wellington] continues so 
unwell that he could not join the party, which otherwise was 
very brilliant, and even gay. . . . The plate at Buckingham 
House is marvellous; not merely costly, but rare, and the 
rooms are crammed with all possible curiosities and nicknacks, 
the spoils of our friend Emanuel, &c., for all which things 
Chandos has a passion. It is just the house to suit you. 

iTo the Coronation. 

30 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [cuap. i 

For guests we had the Loncionderrys, Jerseys, Peels, Sir 
James and Lady Graham, Lyndhurst, Goulburn, Mahon, Sir 
H. Hardinge. All admired Lady Anna Grenville,^ our host's 
only daugliter, just presented. 

I fear much the heavens do not smile on your Richmond 
expedition. I could only be consoled for not meeting to-day 
by the conviction that you were at least receiving pleasure, 
but Richmond on a rainy day is certainly not Paradise, though 
sometimes I have fancied it such when the sun was shining. . . . 

Farewell ! I am happy if you are. 



For Disraeli, with his native love of pageantry and 
splendour, a rare opportunity was now drawing near. 
The Coronation of Queen Victoria was fixed for the end 
of June, and few in the thronging multitudes who were 
in London at the time can have felt a keener joy than he 
in the spectacles and festivities for which the ceremony 
gave occasion. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Monday [^June 25]. 

My Dearest, 

London is now very gay. The whole of the line of pro- 
cession is nearly covered with galleries and raised seats ; 
when these are clothed with carpets and coloured hangings 
the effect will be superb. London teems with foreigners. 
There are full 200 {on clit) of distinction, attached to the 
different embassies, and lodged in every possible hotel from 
Mivart to Sabloniere. Lord F. Egertou told me this morning 
that he had been paying a visit to a brace of Italian princes 
in the last-named crib on a third floor, and never in the dirtiest 
locanda of the Levant, Smyrna, or Alexandria, had he visited 
a more filthy and offensive scene; but they seemed to enjoy 
it, and are visible every night, with their brilliant uniforms 
and sparkling stars, as if their carriage at break of dawn were 
not changed into a pumpkin. 

Your geranium gave me a flower to-day and will give me 
a couple more. I have bought also a promising plant myself. 

My love to all. 


1 Afterwards Lady Anna Gore-Langton, mother of the 4th Earl Temple 
of Stowe. 



We had a very agreeable party at D'Orsay's yesterday. 
Zichy, who has cut out eveu Esterhazy, having two jackets, 
one of diamonds more brilliant than E.'s, and another which 
he wore at the Drawing-room yesterday of turquoises. This 
makes the greatest sensation of the two. He speaks English 
perfectly ; is a great traveller, been to Nubia, all over Asia, 
and to Canada and the United States. Then there was the 
Duke of Ossuna, a young man, but a grandee of the highest 
grade. He is neither Carlist nor Christino, and does not mean 
to return to Spain until they have settled everything. There- 
fore they have confiscated his estates, but he has a large 
property in Italy, and also Belgium. He is a great dandy and 
looks like Philip II., but though the only living descendant 
of the Borgias, he has the reputation of being very amiable. 
When he was last at Paris he attended a representation of 
Victor Hugo's Lucrezia Borgia. She says in one of the scenes, 
' Great crimes are in our blood.' All his friends looked at him 
with an expression of fear ; ' but the blood has degenerated,' 
he said, 'for I have committed only weaknesses.' Then there 
was the real prince Poniatowsky, also young and with a most 
brilliant star. Then came Kissiloffs and Strogonoffs, ' and 
other offs and ons,' and De Belancour, a very agreeable 
person. Lyndhurst, Gardner, Bulwer, and myself completed 
the party. 

I must give up going to the coronation, as we go in state, 
and all the M.P.s must be in court dresses or uniforms. As I 
have withstood making a costume of this kind for other pur- 
poses, I will not make one now, and console myself by the 
conviction that to get up very early (eight o'clock), to sit 
dressed like a flunky in the Abbey for seven or eight hours, 
and to listen to a sermon by the Bishop of London, can be no 
great enjoyment. 

Lyndhurst made a very successful speech the other night 
on Spain, and foreign politics are coming into fashion. 


June 29. 

I went to the coronation after all. I did not get a dress 
till 2.30 on the morning of the ceremony, but it fitted me very 
well. It turned out that I had a very fine leg, which I never 
knew before ! The pageant within the Abbey was without 
exception the most splendid, various, and interesting affair at 
which I ever was present. To describe is of course useless. 
I had one of the best seats in the Abbey, indeed our House 
had the best of everything. I am very glad indeed that 
Ralph persuaded me to go, for it far exceeded my expecta- 

32 THE MAIDEN SPEECH [chap, i 

tions. The Queen looked very well, and performed her ])art 
with great grace and completeness, which cannot in general be 
said of the other performers ; they were always in doubt 
as to what came next, and you saw the want of rehearsal. 
The Duke was loudly cheered when he made his homage. 
Melbourne looked very awkward and uncouth, with his coronet 
cocked over his nose, his robes under his feet, and holding the 
great sword of state like a butcher. . . . The Duchess of 
Sutherland^ walked, or rather stalked, up the Abbey like 
Juno ; she was full of her situation. Lady Jersey ^ and Lady 
Londonderry blazed among the peeresses.^ 

[July 2.] 

The beautiful lady [mentioned in a newspaper] was my 
friend the Countess Sablonouska, the beauty of the season. 
She did not sit with the foreign Ambassadors, but was led 
into the Abbey by a Russian nobleman to her seat among 
the fairest of the visitors opposite. 

The Queen behaved with great grace and feeling about Lord 
Rolle : nothing could be more effective. She seemed for an 
instant to pause whether etiquette would allow her to rise 
from her throne, and then did so and held out her hand with 
infinite dignity and yet delicate sentiment. 

Lyndhurst, as I think I told you, paid his homage with 
singular dignity, but committed the faux pas of not backing 
from the presence. Fanny [Lady Londonderry] looked an 
Empress. Her fete is put off on account of the queen's ball 

Exmouth paid his homage very well, but complained ter- 
ribly of the weight of his robes and coronet, which were made 
for his grandfather at George IV.'s Coronation, and the old 
lord was a very tall, stout, burly man. I have got a gold 
medal given me as M.P., but I have presented it to Mrs. 

O'Connell was in a Court dress and looked very well, and 
was deejjly interested in everything, but was hooted greatly, 
071 dit, by the mob. Hume, who would not put on Court 
attire, was prevented from sitting in our gallery, but was in 
the Abbey. T think I told you of Fector's* gorgeous suit; it 
has been noticed in the papers. When we two got into his 
chariot, that cantankerous Norreys halloed out, ^ Make room, 
for the Maidstone Sheriffs!' Very good, I think, though 
rather annoying. 

1 The Mistress of the Robes. 

2 Sarah, eldest daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland by his wife 
the heiress of liobert Child the banker. 

8 Letters, pp. 138-140. * The new member for Maidstone. 


Bulwer I did not see ; he certainly was not in the House. . . . 

The procession was, I think, rather a failure : heavy, want 
of variety, and not enough music or troops. There are so few 
troops in the country, that they cannot get up a review in 
Hyde Park for Soult, and keep on the fair, they are so 

I saw Lord Ward after the ceremony, in a retiring room, 
drinking champagne out of a pewter pot, his coronet cocked 
aside, his robes disordered, and his arms akimbo, the very 
picture of Rochester. 

Wednesday [July 4] . 
Dearest Sa, 

. . , There was a very brilliant ball at the Salisburys' last 
night, all the remarkables and illustrious in whom Loudon 
now abounds being there. I stayed till 2, but there were 
then no signs of separation, and the supper-room was just open. 
By-the-bye, the Countess Zavodouska, for I believe that is 
her name, appears quite the reigning beauty of the season, 
and moves surrounded by a crowd of glittering admirers. 
She did me the honour of remembering me, though not in 
Turkish costume, and told me she had read Vivian Grey. 

Exmouth came up to Theodore Hook, full of indignation 
at the 31 Baronets in the night's Gazette. 'Thirty -one 
Baronets ! Here's a pretty game of the ^Yhigs ! ' says he. 
* They'll make a bloody hand of it, at any rate,' said Theodore, 

The same wit and worthy was abusing the foreigners, and 
particularly Prince Poniatowsky, who, on dit, is anxious to 
turn the rich and pretty Mrs. Craven into a Princess. 'I 
suppose he can't show his face in his own land, the Radical 
scamp,' said T. H. Whereupon he was informed the Prince 
was no Rad, and had refused the crown of Poland. " Peut- 
itre,' replied Theodore. * He may have refused a crown, but 
he looks very much now as if he would accept half a crown.' 

The foreigners thought that Lord Rolle's tumble was a 
tenure by which he held his barony. 

I hope you are all well, and I send you my love. 


Tuesday [July 11]. 
Mt Dearest, 

Yesterday, the day being perfect, there was a splendid 
review in Hyde Park. I saw it admirably from Mrs. Wynd- 
ham's.^ The Delawarrs, Rolles, Lawrence Peels, and Dawsons 
were there, but no one was allowed to be on the drawing-room 
floor, lest there should be an appearance of a party, except 
old Lord Rolle and myself to be his companion. Lord R. sat 

1 Her house was No. 1, Grosvenor Gate, now 29, Park Lane. 

TOL. II — D 

34 THE MAIDEX SPEECH [chap, i 

in the balcony with a footman each side of him, as is his 
custom. The Londonderry's after the review gave the most 
magnificent banquet at Hoklernesse House conceivable. 
Nothing could be more recherche. There were only 150 asked, 
and all sat down. Fanny was faithful, and asked me, and I 
figure in the Morning Post accordingh". It was the finest 
thing of the season. Londonderry's regiment being reviewed, 
we had the band of the 10th playing on the staircase : the 
whole of the said staircase (a double one) being crowded with 
the most splendid orange-trees and Cape jessamines; the Duke 
of Nemours, Soult, all the ' illustrious strangers,' the Duke 
and the very flower of fashion being assembled. The banquet 
was in the gallery of sculpture; it was so magnificent that 
everybody lost their presence of mind. Sir James Graham 
said to me that he had never in his life seen anything so 
gorgeous. ' This is the grand seigneur indeed,' he added. I 
think it was the kindest thing possible of Fanny asking me, 
as it was not to be expected in any way. The splendour of the 
uniforms was remarkable. 



A fortnight later we find him on the way to his con- 
stituents at Maidstone. 

To Mrs. Wyndham Leivis. 


July 26. 

Pressed as I am for time, wet, which is at least a novelty, 

hungry with no chance of my appetite being gratified, and 

about to make a speech of which I have not an idea ready, 

I send you this scrawl from a wretched pot-house, to tell you 

that you have not been the whole day a moment absent from 

my thoughts. 


Juhj 27. 

I arrived here just a quarter of an hour before the meeting. 
Under the inspiration of a glass of brandy and water at 
Eochester, and the racket of the post-chaise, I contrived to 
collect some nonsense which turned into a capital speech; 
but what I shall say at the dinner to-day I can't devise, hav- 
ing exhausted every possible topic of congratulation to our 
friends and of triumph over our foes. Let me avail myself of 
this moment, which I seize in a room full of bustle and chatter 
to tell you how much I love you. 

1 Brit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

[July 29.] 

On Friday the Randalls gave a grand breakfast to the prin- 
cipal members of the part}^, which was well done, and ' equal to 
anything of the kind, as they say. But only conceive a grand 
dejeuner scarcely over at 3.30, and a grand dinner at 5.30 ! I 
took a walk into the country, as it was in vain to pay visits. 
We dined 107, more than the room could hold. I had to make 
another speech ; never began a sentence with the slightest 
idea of its termination ; really in a funk, but never made a 
more successful one. But to speak plainly, the two speeches 
cost me great efforts at the moment. I never racked my 
brain so much, but it answered to the helm. 

The ball at Holdernesse House was a very brilliant affair. 
I was introduced to Lord Brougham by Lady William Powlett, 
and Sir Lytton ^ also made his appearance. I spoke the other 
night after O'Connell, and with spirit and success. I thought 
it as well that my voice should be heard at the end of the 
session, and especiall}^ on an Irish subject. There were only 
eight Tories in the House, the subject having been brought 
on unexpectedly and without notice, and Brougham speaking 
in the Lords, which takes men away. The Whig benches 
were tolerably full, as they had made a whip.- 

This speech was a vigorous indictment of the Irish 
policy of the Government on the occasion of their aban- 
doning an Irish Corporations Bill which the Lords had 
drastically amended. It was characteristic of Disraeli 
that, having begun the session with a failure in speaking 
on an Irish subject immediately after O'Connell, he should 
have determined to bring it to a close by making a suc- 
cessful effort in a precisely similar situation. 

1 Bulwer, who had just been made a baronet. 

2 Letters, pp. 142, 143. 




Disraeli's thoughts were now again turned towards 
matrimony, and, as the reader has no doubt guessed, he 
was by this time fully satisfied that he had found the 
lady for his choice. The accident of his election for 
Maidstone had given to the 'pretty little woman,' the 
'flirt,' and the 'rattle,' whose volubility had astonished 
him when he met her first at Bulwer's in 1832, a part 
among the principal actors in the drama of his life. 
Mrs. Wyndham Lewis, before marriage Mary Anne Evans, 
was born in 1792, the daughter of John Evans, a Lieu- 
tenant in the navy. Her father died on active service 
while she was still an infant, leaving his widow with two 
children in something less than affluence — a circumstance 
which has given rise to purely fanciful stories of a very 
humble origin for the future Lady Beaconsfield. In those 
days the navy, which was just about to enter on the 
period of its greatest achievements, offered a more open 
road to merit than perhaps any other English institution ; 
and Evans, joining as a lad, had had to make his way 
from the bottom of the service before winning his com- 
mission. But he appears to have come of a respectable 
farming stock in Devon,^ and his wife, a Viney, belonged 

1 His parents lived at Brampford Speke, a village a few miles from 
Exeter, and there it is usually stated that Lady Beaconsfield was born ; 
but her birthplace would appear to liave been Exeter itself, where in the 
register of baptisms for the parish of St. Sidwell there is the entry, under 
date Nov. 14, 1792: 'Marianne, daughter of John and Eleanor Evans.' 



to a family of good position and connexion in the West 
of England. Beautiful though dowerless, their daughter 
at twenty-three had won the hand of Wyndhani Lewis, 
a man of birth and fortune, who was then member for 
Cardiff, and who at a later date became one of the two 
members for Maidstone. The election of 1837 gave the 
other seat to Disraeli, and Mrs. Lewis, as we have 
seen,i .^l t;he very beginning of the closer acquaintance 
which followed this event, divined the genius of her 
husband's colleague, made him her ' Parliamentary pro- 
tege,' and prophesied his coming greatness; while Dis- 
raeli in his turn rewarded her with a friendship that 
was cordial from the first, and gradually became tinged 
with a sort of mock devotion. The death of Wyndham 
Lewis had of course changed their relations, and made 
it necessary that they should be either more or less to 
each other in future. Mrs. Lewis was now a widow, and 
though she was already forty-five, twelve years older 
than Disraeli, she was still by all accounts wonderfully 
youthful for her years; and, with this advantage in her 
favour, there is no reason to believe that she varied in 
her practice from the kindly race of women, or allowed her 
suitor to suspect the real disparity in their ages. She 
had been left with a house^ in London and a good income^ 
for life, and the world has always assumed that in these 
accessories is to be sought the explanation of that which 
followed. But though Disraeli himself confessed, as we 
shall see at a later stage, that when he first made his 
advances he was prompted thereto by no romantic feel- 
ings, we shall find, nevertheless, good reasons for thinking 
that the judgment of the world may stand in need of 

1 Vol. I., p. 376. 

2 No. 1, Grosvenor Gate, now 29, Park Lane. This, which more than 
any other became Disraeli's house in London, alone remains unmarked by 
tablet or inscription. 

3 At first, apparently, about £4,000 a year, and rather more later. 

38 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis 

Aug. 20, 1838. 
The Sim shines, and Bradenham looks beautiful ; most green 
and fresh, and to-day even bright. But you are not here. 
Come, and prithee quickly; for though these people are kind 
and good, and as amusing as any other honest folk in the 
shires, their talk is insipid after all that bright play of fancy 
and affection which welcomes me daily with such vivacious 

Oct. 7. 

I have not recovered from the stupefaction of yesterday, 
[when Mrs. Lewis had left after a long visit to Bradenham]. 
I have scarcely left my room, scarcely spoken to anyone. All 
is dull, silent, spiritless ; the charm is broken, the magic is 

All this may be inevitable, and I will believe it all may end 
well. But what future joy and prosperity, what fortune, 
even what fame, can compensate for this anguish ? 

Oct. 9. 
I have made up my mind to leave this place to-morrow, in 
order that I may have the delight of a day or two with your 
own sweet self. ... I have not been out of the house since 
you left it, until this afternoon, having been in a state of 
apathy, a dull trance. This morning I rose pretty cheerful, 
was inspired by your letter, worked very well at the tragedy, 
recasting the great scene, greatly improving it, and writing a 
magnificent soliloquy. When the first act is complete you 
shall have it. 

Love had driven liim to poetry, as had happened once 
before. On the earlier occasion, to use a phrase i of his 
own, he had made an attempt ' to strike the long-mute 
strings of the epick lyre,' and with characteristic courage 
he now embarked on a still more risky venture — the com- 
position of a great tragedy. Under the leadership of 
Macready there had been in recent years a marked 
revival of interest in serious drama. Talfourd's Ion had 
been produced in 1836, and had been followed at no long 
interval by Bulwer's Lady of Lyons. Disraeli was deter- 
mined not to be behindhand, and set to work on Alarcos. 

^ In a letter to Lord Mahon. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

[London, Oct. 11.'] 

... I imderstand that the trousseau of Julia Macdonald 
surpassed in fancy and splendor all late exhibitions, which, 
considering that her family collectively have not a sou, was 
surprising. She was married in a dress of white velvet with 
three flounces of point lace, and departed in a white silk cos- 
tume with a trimming of birds of paradise feathers. But the 
most wonderful thing was D'Orsay's present to the bridegroom 
— a white silk waistcoat, brode in gold, from Paris ; the 
design by the Count, who was at the wedding. This sur- 
passed anything ever seen. I shall call on him to-morrow. . . . 
Sir Robert Peel very well and very courteous indeed. I 
chatted this morning an hour with Lyndhurst, who looks 
younger and brisker than ever — much. I never saw him so 
well. . . Love. 


[London, Oct. 13.] 

I called on D'Orsay yesterday, and found him very 
flourishing. He asked me to dine with him to-day to cele- 
brate his birthday, but I was obliged, though with great regret, 
to decline. It is all lies about Macready, who goes on with 
the Theatre. . . .- 

The Gibsons, George Womb well, and Stapleton dined at 
Grosvenor Gate yesterday. There has been a row at Crock- 
ford's, and Ude dismissed. He told the committee he was 
worth £4,000 a year. Their new man is quite a failure, so 
I think the great artist may yet return from Elba. He told 
Wombwell that, in spite of his £4,000 a year, he was miserable 
in retirement; that he sat all day with his hands before him 
doing nothing. Wombwell suggested the exercise of his art 
for the gratification of his own appetite. ' Bah ! ' he said, ' I 
have not been into my kitchen once : I hate the sight of my 
kitchen. I dine on roast mutton dressed by a cookmaid.' 
He shed tears, and said that he had only been twice in St. 
James's Street since his retirement, which was in September, 
and that he made it a rule never to walk on the same side as 
the Clubhouse. 'Ah, I love that Club, though they are in- 
grats. Do not be offended, Mr. W., if I do not take my hat 
off to you when we meet ; but I have made a vow that I will 

iBrit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 

2 Covent Garden, where he was then playing The Lady of Lyons. 

40 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

never take my hat off to a member of the Committee.' * I 
shall always take my hat ofif to you, Mr. Ude.' 



To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 


Oct. 14. 

This morning all the dahlias have disappeared, and the 
rigor of the night has been fatal to even sweeter things than 
they ; among them I grieve to say our favorite heliotrope. 
Tita is very blank about the vanishing of his favorites. I 
cannot say that I am happy, because that would not be true, 
but I exert myself to bear up against my sorrowful lot. My 
present feelings convince me of what I have ever believed, 
that there is no hell on earth like separated love. 

Oct. 18. 

I wrote your name in large characters and placed it before 
me. I remembered your parting injunctions. I poured all 
my spirit into my tragedy. The effort was great and painful, 
but as my brain warmed and my spirit rose, it was successful. 
I wrote all yesterday without ceasing. I did not go down to 
dinner, and never left my room till the evening. My imagina- 
tion solaced me, for I poured into the fictitious scene my actual 
sensations, and the pages teem with passages which 3'ou will 
not read without emotion, for they came from my heart and 
they commemorate my love, my doubt, my misery. Your 
name was before me, the name of her who is my inspiration, 
my hope, perhaps ray despair. . . . 

I believe in [your promised visit] as men believe in the 
millenniimi. My faith is firm, but I cannot help sometimes 
reminding myself that my creed is in the impossible. 

Oct. 19. 
In health I am well ; which I ascribe to my ascetic diet, 
and the magic of cayenne, which has as completely removed 
all my nervous sensations of discomfort as Guinness did last 
year, so you have saved me twice. I rise early, and have 
worked yesterday and to-day from 9 to 2, breakfasting at 11. 
Bej^ond 2 I cannot write, and pass the day as well as I can ; 
reading a play, sauntering when it is genial as to-day, which 
was even balmy, and ever thinking of my sweet love. My 
progress has been great and brilliant; you know I am not 
easily satisfied with my efforts, and not in the habit of speak- 
ing of my writings with much complacency. You may there- 
fore credit there is some foundation when I tell you, that I 
think my present work will far exceed your expectations, 

1838] IN LOVE 41 

and realise even my hopes. ... I envy the gentlemen about 
you, but I am not jealous. When the eagle leaves you the 
vultures return. There ! that is sublime. 

There is hardly a flower to be found, but I have sent you a 
few sweet-peas. 

Oct. 23. 

I write in good health and in good spirits. I prosper in my 
work. I am satisfied with what I have done. I look upon 
my creation and see that it is good. Health, my clear brain, 
and your fond love ; — and I feel that I can conquer the 

Oct. 25. 

Your letter recalls to me most fully, vividly, and painfully, 
the wretchedness of my situation, separated from my love, 
and what must be the inevitable result of our present life — 
fading emotion and final estrangement. I can write at no 
length to-day. The immortal gods, wherever and whatever 
they be, grant that the future may be different to what my 
prophetic soul paints it ! 

Oct. 29. 

... I cannot reconcile Love and separation. My ideas of 
Love are the perpetual enjoyment of the society of the sweet 
being to whom I am devoted, the sharing of every thought 
and even every fancy, of every charm and every care. Per- 
haps I sigh for a state which never can be mine, which never 
existed. But there is nothing in my own heart that con- 
vinces me it is impossible, and if it be an illusion it is an 
illusion worthy of the gods. I wish to be with you, to live 
with you, never to be away from you — I care not where, in 
heaven or on earth, or in the waters under the earth. . . . 

I would have written on Friday, but was really too un- 
happy. So I sauntered about thinking of you, and gleaned, 
for we can no longer gather, flowers which I sent to you, and 
which I amused myself by dexterously packing in franks; 
for, to tell the truth, I spoiled more covers than one before I 
could stow them, which with the united aid of scissors and 
patience I at last contrived to succeed in. . . . 

I thank you much for your political news, which is of great 
use to me, as I can make up a letter for Chandos, who com- 
plains of my no longer writing to him, and all that, but, alas! 
I have nothing to say, nor, to tell the truth, do I care as of 
yore about politics. For love swalloweth up all things. . . . 

I have lost all heart for my tragedy. I always aim in all I 
do at the highest. I see no use in writing tragedies unless 
they be as fine as Shakespeare's ; and as that is impossible to 

42 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

attain, what am I to do ? In Fame as well as Love, my motto 
is ' All or Nothing,' because I prefer happy obscurity to 
mediocre reputation. 

Oct. 30. 

The storm here was a hurricane. It broke our drawing- 
room windows, peeled the lead off our roof, and tore up about 
thirty trees, some valuable — ten young oaks in the coppice, 
the only large elm we had, and the large laburnum at the end 
of the terrace. As for our orchards, there are cherry and 
apple trees in all directions, as if the devil had been riding 
about on a broomstick. . . . 

I have heard nothing from Maidstone, and probably shall 
not. They seem to wish to saddle the money that is minus 
on me, which of course is too ridiculous, so we shall quarrel. 
We may as well do it at once, as they will doubtless throw me 
over eventually. 

Meanwhile lie had contrived to provoke a quarrel with 
the lawyers, antagonists more redoubtable than even 
O'Connell, and won by his bearing not a little credit, 
though in a sense he had to accept defeat and humilia- 
tion. The by-election at Maidstone caused by the death 
of Wyndham Lewis had been followed by a petition 
against the successful Conservative candidate; and in 
opening the case for the petitioners, Charles Austin,^ their 
counsel, had made certain statements which seemed to 
amount to a charge that Disraeli at the general election 
had promised bribes to electors, and afterwards failed to 
pay them. The proceedings in the petition came to a 
premature end through the respondent's resignation,^ 
and, finding himself thus deprived of the opportunity of 
clearing himself before the committee of inquiry, Dis- 
raeli with characteristic impulsiveness sent a letter^ to 
the newspapers in which he repelled the charge with all 
his customary emphasis, and, not content with this, pro- 
ceeded, equally in his customary manner, to make a 
vigorous counter-attack : 

In opening the case of the petitioners against the return 
of Mr. Fector for Maidstone on Friday last, Mr. Austin stated 

1 Macaulay's brilliant contemporary at Cambridge, and a younger 
brother of John Austin, the jurist. 

2 He was at once re-elected. ^ Dated June 6, 1838. 


that ' Mr. Disraeli, at the general election, had entered into 
engagements with the electors of Maidstone, and made 
pecuniary promises to them, which he had left unfulfilled.' 

I should have instantly noticed this assertion of the learned 
gentleman had not a friend, to whose opinion I was bound to 
defer, assured me that Mr. Austin, by the custom of his pro- 
fession, was authorised to make any statement from his brief 
which he was prepared to substantiate, or to attempt to sub- 

The inquiry into the last Maidstone election has now ter- 
minated, and I take the earliest opportunity of declaring, and 
in a manner the most unqualified and unequivocal, that the 
statement of the learned gentleman is utterly false. There 
is not the slightest shadow of a foundation for it. I myself 
never, either directly or indirectly, entered into any pecuniary 
engagements with, or made any pecuniary promises to, the 
electors of Maidstone, and therefore I cannot have broken any 
or left any unfulfilled. The whole expenses of the contest 
in question were defrayed by my lamented colleague, and I 
discharged to him my moiety of those expenses, as is well 
known to those who are entitled to any knowledge on the 

I am informed that it is quite useless, and even unreason- 
able, in me to expect from Mr. Austin any satisfaction for 
those impertinent calumnies, because Mr. Austin is a member 
of an honourable profession, the first principle of whose prac- 
tice appears to be that they may say anything provided they 
be paid for it. The privilege of circulating falsehoods with 
impunity is delicately described as doing your duty towards 
your client, which appears to be a very different process to 
doing your duty towards your neighbour. This may be the 
usage of Mr. Austin's profession, and it may be the custom to 
society to submit to its practice ; but, for my part, it appears 
to me to be nothing better than a disgusting and intolerable 
tyranny, and I, for one, shall not bow to it in silence. 

I therefore repeat that the statement of Mr. Austin was 
false, and, inasmuch as he never attempted to substantiate it, 
I conclude that it was, on his side, but the blustering artifice 
of a rhetorical hireling, availing himself of the vile licence of 
a loose-tongued lawyer, not only to make a statement which 
was false, but to make it with a consciousness of its falsehood. 

His aim, it would appear, was to provoke a challenge. 
* Anything,' he wrote to Mrs. Wyndham Lewis, ' is better 
than submitting to an insult. I am perfectly cool and 
perfectly prepared for him. But I fear there is no 

44 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

chivalry nowadays, and I dare say the fellow will not do 
what he ought.' His anticipations were realised, as the 
next letter shows : 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 

Mr. Austin does not fight, but applies to the Court of 
Queen's Bench. There is a great flutter among the lawyers, 
and there was a meeting, and the Attorney-General in the 
chair. I would have preferred a more expeditious and cheaper 
process of settling the business ; but at any rate it may save 
you some suffering, and this shall be my consolation. . . . 

All my friends, and more than my friends, say that the 
letter was the best ever written, and that Austin is a poltroon 
to take the step he has adopted. 

On the application of the Attorney- General, Lord Den- 
man granted a rule nisi for a criminal information. 
Austin declared in his affidavit that his charges had been 
directed, not against Disraeli personally, but against the 
political party which had supported him, and when the 
matter came before the court Disraeli's counsel expressed 
his client's regret that he should have taken a step which 
would have been unnecessary if he had known the truth 
of the matter. The court, however, held that this apology 
was insufficient, and the rule was made absolute. Judg- 
ment on the criminal information was allowed to go by 
default, but when Disraeli appeared to receive sentence 
he addressed the court in a long speech in mitigation of 
punishment which is not the least famous or interesting 
of his efforts : 

I will for a short time avail myself of the merciful permis- 
sion of the Bench to offer some observations which, I think, 
may induce it to visit this misdemeanour in a spirit of leniency. 
I stand before the court confessedly guilty, not from any 
dislike to enter into an investigation of the circumstances 
which have induced me to commit this trespass, but because I 
have been advised that, whatever the moral effect might be, 
the legal effect could be but one — namely, a conviction. . . . 
It would be affectation in me to pretend that the (I will say, 
unfortunate) letter which has originated these proceedings 
was written for the atmosphere of Westminster Hall. ... I 


confess my feelings at that moment were considerably ex- 
cited. I had lived to learn by experience that calumny once 
circulated is more or less for ever current. ... I found it 
necessary to take a step which should cope with the calumny, 
and which should be decisive. Two courses alone were open 
to me. I might have gone down to my seat in the House of 
Commons, and might have treated it as a breach of privilege. 
I might have made the observations I afterwards wrote, and, 
as your lordships know, I might have done so there with 
impunity ; but I had a wish not to shield myself under my 
privilege. Late at night I wrote this unfortunate letter, and 
sent it instantly to all the newspapers. ... I did not con- 
sider that the system of bribery spoken of by Mr. Austin 
prevailed in any borough — certainly it did not in Maidstone. 
. . . But . . . admitting there was such a system ... I 
must say the introduction of my name was most grievous and 
most unwarranted. . . . 

I regret what I have done. I not only feel regret, but great 
mortification, for what I have done. I am sorry I should have 
injured the feelings of any man who had not attempted to 
injure me. I am sorry that through misconception I should 
have said anything that could for a moment have annoyed 
the mind of a gentleman of the highest honor and integrity. 
I should myself be satisfied with that expression of deep 
regret and mortification. But, my lords, from the manner 
in which this declaration is couched, from several expressions 
that have fallen at various times during these proceedings, 
from the animus which has characterised them within and 
without these walls, I cannot help fearing that I am brought 
here by one of those fictions of law of which I have read, and 
it is not so much for an offence against the law as an offence 
against lawyers that I am now awaiting judgment. . . . My 
lords, I am not desirous of vindicating the expressions used 
in that letter in reference to the profession, any more than the 
expressions used in reference to the individual. ... I cannot 
forget that from the Bar of England have sprung many of our 
most illustrious statesman, past and present ; . . . but I have 
ever believed, I believe at this moment — I see no libel in 
the expression of that belief, no want of taste, under the circum- 
stances of the case, in expressing it even here — that there is 
in the principles on which the practice of that Bar is based a 
taint of arrogance ; I will not say audacity, but of that reckless 
spirit which is the necessary consequence of the possession and 
the exercise of irresponsible power. ... 

I confess that I myself have imbibed an opinion that it is 
the duty of a counsel to his client to assist him by all possible 
means, just or unjust, and even to commit, if necessary, a 

46 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

crime for his assistance or extrication. My lords, this may be 
an outrageous opinion ; but, my lords, it is not my own. 
Allow me to read a description of the duty of a counsel to a 
client, and by a great authority : ' An advocate, by the sacred 
duty which he owes his client, knows in the discharge of that 
office but one person in the world — that client and none 
other. To save that client by all expedient means, to pro- 
tect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and 
among others to himself, is the highest and most unquestioned 
of his duties ; and he must not regard the alarm, the suffering, 
the torment, the destruction, which he may bring upon any 
other. Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from 
those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the 
wind, he must go on, reckless of the consequences, if his fate 
it should unhappily be, to involve his country in confusion 
for his client's protection.' Here, my lords, is a sketch, and 
by a great master ; here, my lords, is the rationale of the duties 
of an advocate, and drawn up by a Lord Chancellor M . . . 

My lords, I have done. I leave my case with confidence to 
your merciful consideration, briefly recapitulating the points 
on which I have attempted to place myself fairly before the 
Bench and the public. As to my offence against the law, I 
throw myself on your lordships' mercy ; as to my offence 
against the individual, I have made him that reparation 
which a gentleman should, under the circumstances, cheer- 
fully offer, and with which a gentleman should, in my opinion, 
be cheerfully content. I make this, my lords, not to avoid 
the consequences of ray conduct, for right or wrong, good or 
bad, these consequences I am ever ready to encounter ; but 
because I am anxious to soothe the feelings which I have un- 
justly injured, and evince my respect to the suggestions of 
the Bench. But as to my offence against the Bar, I do with 
the utmost confidence appeal to your lordships, however you 
may disapprove of my opinions, however objectionable, how- 
ever offensive, even however odious, they may be to you, that 
you will not permit me to be arraigned for one offence and 
punished for another. In a word, my lords, it is to the Bench 
I look with confidence to shield me from the vengeance of an 
irritated and powerful profession.^ 

Disraeli had submitted, but his submission was far from 
abject. In presence of the majesty of the law he had 
contrived, in fact, to repeat, though in more decorous 
language, the substance of the offending letter. The 

1 Brougham, in his speech in defence of Queen Caroline. 

2 From The Times of Nov. 23, 1838. 


Attorney-General, however, accepted the rather dubious 
apology as 'ample,' and the court decided that it could 
with propriety pass over the offence unpunished. Den- 
man was already involved in the dispute with the House 
of Commons which arose out of the case of Stockdale, the 
printer, and he and the other lawyers may have thought 
that it was more prudent not to provoke a second. They 
can hardly have believed that the honours really rested 
with them, and they were probably well aware that the 
sympathies of the lay world were wholly with their 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 


J^ov. 23. 

I saw Lord Chandos to-day, passing through town to Aving- 

ton, the Duke's seat in Hants. I have arranged to be with 

him at Xmas, which will exactly suit your plans. He was 

most kind, as he ever is, and warm about the speech and the 

' pluck ' (his own word) of the whole affair. He thinks to 

face lawyers is the boldest of achievements. But the most 

agreeable thing that happened to me was Lord Abinger ' coming 

up, with whom I had a long conversation. His praise was 

great but discriminating. The quotation from Brougham he 

thought most apposite and admirable; and he talked to me 

a great deal of the principles, so different from those then 

expressed, on which he always conducted his professional 



Nov. 26. 

I came down by a new engine called the North Star (on 
the Western Railroad), of enormous and unprecedented power. 
We were only 42 minutes reaching Maidenhead, which is at 
the rate of 36 miles an hour. It is the only satisfactory 
piece of railroad travelling I ever performed. By this means 
I got home by dinner-time, the bell sounding as I just touched 
the green. 

I found them all very well, and my father very much de- 
lighted about the speech, which he thinks the best thing that 
has happened to me for a long time. I am glad to say the 
Examiner and Spectator, though Whig and Radical papers, 
gave the greatest encomiums for ' spirit and feeling,' especially 
the Spectator, which praised the whole affair very much. . . . 

1 The Lord Chief Baron. 

48 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

I have not been out since my return, since I have not been 
sorry to have a little lazy quiet to calm my mind and collect 
my ideas. I pulled my papers out this morning, and warmed 
up a little, and hope that to-morrow will find me at my accus- 
tomed task ! 

Nov. 29. 
I can tell you nothing, but that I love you, and, indeed, 
am so ill and stupid that I should not be surprised if you 
doubted it from this very weak expression. I have received 
a good many letters and papers from town about the speech, 
but that is now a stale affair. You will be glad to hear that 
all lawyers of all parties agree in its eulogium, and especially 
Follett,^ who said at the Carlton more than I care to repeat. 
But I know you like to hear of these things. 

Dec. 2. 

I have been in bed almost ever since I last wrote to you, 
but I trust I have now thrown off this attack [of influenza]. 
You know what a vile lowering disorder it is. . . . I try to 
think of my tragedy ; but I am convinced that to write a 
great tragedy is the chef-d'oeuvre of literaiy skill ; and that with 
the finest poetic genius, and even dramatic nature, one may 
fail. Of all compositions, it requires the utmost skill and 
practice, and profound conception. If mine ever appear, it 
shall be a masterpiece ; but that appearance is very doubtful. 
I have burnt more than I have written — that's a good sign at 

Wednesday, Dee. 5. 

I have been obliged to betake myself to my bed again. Al- 
though yesterday nearly bent double with the acuteness of 
this strange complaint which has now attacked me every year, 
more or less, since my return to England, I still hope to meet 
you on Friday. 

Dec. 20. 

Not five minutes after I left your dear presence, I met 
rather an adventure, A cortege of dandies and grooms 
riding up the lane to Bradenham, and, lo ! Count d'Orsay, 
Lord Albert Conyngham and Forester, about to call on me 
with an invitation from Lord Carrington to dine at Wycombe 
Abbey, where they were staying. They were resolved to pay 
their visit, so I drove on, begged the family to receive them 
as I could not, for the Aylesbury people were just entering 
the gates as I got on the green. So I could not join my guests 
for an hour, when I found them still here and well amused. 

1 Peel's Solicitor-General in 18.34-35, and afterwards Attorney-General. 
He had appeared with the Attorney-General, Campbell, in the proceedings 
against Disraeli. 

1838] THE END OF A FEUD 49 

I had refused the invitation on the road, as I have not 
entered Wycombe Abbey fur six years, and the present Lord 
Carrington, then Robert Smith, was my opponent on the 
hustings; but I found Forester,^ who is Lord Carrington's 
brother-in-law, had instructions to get me at all hazards ; so 
I was at length forced to consent to dine there to-day. Thus 
in a few hours has evaporated the feud of long years ! 

Dec. 22. 

"We had a most agreeable meeting at Lord Carrington's. I 
found there Lady Chesterfield, George and Mrs. Anson, the 
Albert Conyngharas, Forester, the Crewes and D'Orsay ; all 
staying at the Abbey except myself. Our party was rather 
noisy but very gay. I did not get home until past midnight, 
or rather near the chimes of one, and then with great difficulty, 
as I could scarcely resist their entreaties that I should remain 
and send for my toilette in the morning. At last I escai)ed, 
having made the greatest friends with all of them, and with 
half a promise, that when D'Orsay returns, who left on the 
next day, I would come and remain at the Abbey for two or 
three days. 

I did not make them acquainted here with your passage 
through Wycombe as dexterously as you would have done 
yourself in my situation, not producing that dramatic suspense 
for which you are eminent ; but I did contrive at least that 
they should not obtain the information from any other person. 

Dec. 23. 
I shall not allow any feeling of false pride to prevent me 
from expressing my deep mortification at your strange and 
prolonged silence. I am not exacting in any of these lesser 
offices of the heart, because I prefer that at all times they should 
flow from the affections, and not be impelled by anything 
approaching to a sense of duty. ... I also know that one 
of the arts of life is never to turn a pleasure into a bore, which 
correspondence immediately becomes as soon as it is con- 
sidered a formal affair. . . . You told me once you required 
a year to study a character; our year has nearly elapsed, 
and your meditations may have dissatisfied you with mine. 
What my feelings may be if I find that I am doomed ever to 
waste my affections, and that a blight is ever to fall on a heart 
which nature intended to be the shrine of sensibility, it 
matters not. At present I will believe that my fate is indis- 
solubly bound up with yours, until your voice or your conduct 
assures me that all this time I have laboured under a miserable 

1 John George, 2nd Lord Forester, 1801-1874. 

VOL. II — E 

50 MARRIAGE [chap, a 

Dec. 26. 
It is my joy and even my pride that we do not have many 
lovers' quarrels ; truly they are not lovable things, and should 
only be adopted by those whose flagging affections require 
stimulus. Mine never do. Alas ! it is too much love that 
makes me querulous, the suspense of affection and the pangs 
of separation. ... I do not intend to go again to the Abbey 
— at least not to stay. I am gratified that the old feud has 
ceased, but I don't think that such estrangements should be 
succeeded by rapid intimacies. It is better to be sought than 
to weary. D'Orsay comes here to-morrow night, shoots on 
Friday, and is off on Saturday morning. 

Saturday, Dec. 29. 

I am entirely overwhelmed. Indeed, it has been one of 
the most miserable weeks that I have ever passed ; and my 
constitution, tried by the excitement and agitation of the 
last six months, has quite given way. I have written to put 
off all my engagements, and am lying on my sofa, so utterly 
wretched that I cannot convey to you even a faint idea of 
my prostration. And it is doubly painful, for I cannot bear 
to complain, as I should have the house full of doctors, and, 
alas ! they cannot minister to a mind diseased. 

I have written to Lord Chandos to excuse my attendance 
at the Bucks dinner and my visit to Stowe. Lord Carrington 
came here on Thursday to ask D'Orsay, then expected, and 
myself to come to him on Monday ; but I have declined, nor 
shall I attend the Quarter Sessions. . . . D'Orsay arrived 
on Thursday morning to breakfast. The day was fortunately 
very fine, and he was amused out of doors with his gun ; he 
left us this afternoon. It was useless for me to attempt to 
conceal my feelings, and therefore I pleaded illness, which I 
detest doing. I never saw him arrive with so much reluctance 
or depart with so much satisfaction, and yet he is really, as 
you well and truly say, ?i friend, and the best and kindest of 
men. But what are friends, and what is all the goodness 
and kindness in the world, if there is a cloud between you 
and the being you adore ? . . . I am sure you never wish to 
show your power over me, because I never wish to conceal it, 
and, besides, you are above all that : but, indeed, this last 
week is something too terrible to think of. 

Dec. 30. 
I am mad with love. My passion is frenzy. The prospect 
of our immediate meeting overwhelms and entrances me. I 
pass my nights and days in scenes of strange and fascinating 
rapture. . , . Lose not a moment unnecessarily in coming. 
I cannot wait. ... I can scarcely believe in the joy of our 

18391 A LOVER'S MOODS 51 

immediate meeting. Will the time ever pass away until that 
rapturous moment ? 

Dec. 31. 

The happiest of New Years ; and, indeed, I hope and believe 
it will be the happiest of our lives. 

Jan. 22, 1839. 

'Tis twilight after a lovely day, but I have no dark thoughts. 
All my motions are soft and glowing as the sky. Sweetest 
and dearest of women, our united loves shall flow like two 
rivers ; as gentle and as clear. . . , Bless you and bless and 
bless you. 

Jan. 23. 

I love you, if possible, each day more truly and more ten- 
derly. All my hopes of happiness in life are centred in your 
sweet affections, and I wish only to be the solace and glory of 
your life. 

Disraeli's conquest was, perhaps, not so easy as his 
letters, taken by themselves, might lead us to believe. 
In love, as in most things, beneath the placid surface he 
was eager and impulsive. She was by nature colder, and 
she had also reached the age when passion waits upon 
the judgment. She was resolute, it would appear, that 
there should be no open engagement till the conventional 
year had elapsed from her first husband's death, and she 
was, perhaps, not unmindful of those elusive feminine 
arts by which the impetuous lover is at once baffled and 
fascinated. Matters came to a crisis about the time we 
have now reached, and there is a strange letter from 
Disraeli, found after Lady Beaconsfield's death carefully 
disposed among her papers, which tells sufficiently the 
story of their first and last serious quarrel. 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 

Park Street, 
Thursday night, Feb. 7, 1839. 

I would have endeavoured to have spoken to you of that 
which it was necessary you should know, and I wished to have 
spoken with the calmness which was natural to one humiliated 
and distressed. I succeeded so far as ... to be desired to quit 
your house for ever. I have recourse therefore to this miser- 
able method of communicating with you ; none can be more 

52 MARRIAGE [chap, a 

imperfect, but I write as if it were the night before my 
execution. . . . 

I avow, when I first made my advances to you, I was 
influenced by no romantic feelings. My father liad long 
wished me to marry ; my settling in life was the implied, 
though not stipulated, condition of a disposition of his prop- 
erty, which would have been convenient to me. I myself, 
about to commence a practical career, wished for the solace 
of a home, and shrunk from all the torturing passions of in- 
trigue. I was not blind to worldly advantages in such an 
alliance, but I had already proved that my heart was not to 
be purchased. I found you in sorrow, and that heart was 
touched. I found you, as I thought, amiable, tender, and 
yet acute and gifted with no ordinary mind, — one whom I 
could look upon with pride as the partner of my life, who could 
sympathise with all my projects and feelings, console me in 
the moments of depression, share my hour of triumph, and 
work with me for our honor and our happiness. 

Now for your fortune ; I write the sheer truth. That 
fortune proved to be much less than I, or the world, imagined. 
It was in fact, as far as I was concerned, a fortune which could 
not benefit me in the slightest degree; it was merely a jointure 
not greater than your station required; enough to maintain 
your establishment and gratify your private tastes. To eat 
and to sleep in that house, and nominally to call it mine — 
these could be only objects for a penniless adventurer. Was 
this an inducement for me to sacrifice my sweet liberty, and 
that indefinite future which is one of the charms of existence ? 
'No ; when months ago I told you one day, that there was only 
one link between us, I felt that my heart was inextricably 
engaged to you, and but for that I would have terminated 
our acquaintance. From that moment I devoted to you all 
the passion of my being. Alas ! it has been poured upon the 
sand ! . . . 

By heavens, as far as worldly interests are concerned, your 
alliance could not benefit me. All that society can offer is 
at my command ; it is not the apparent possession of a jointure 
that ever elevates position. I can live, as I live, without 
disgrace, until the inevitable progress of events gives me that 
independence which is all I require. I have entered into these 
ungracious details because you reproached me with my inter- 
ested views. No ; I would not condescend to be the minion 
of a princess ; and not all the gold of Ophir should ever lead 
me to the altar. Far different are the qualities which I require 
in the sweet participator of my existence. My nature demands 
that my life should be perpetual love. 

Upon your general conduct to me, I make no comment. It 


is now useless. I will not upbraid you. I will only blame 
myself. . . . But you have struck deep. You have done 
that which my enemies have yet failed to do: you have broken 
my spirit. From the highest to the humblest scene of my life, 
from the brilliant world of fame to my own domestic hearth, 
you have poisoned all. I have no place of refuge: home is 
odious, the world oppressive. 

Triumph — I seek not to conceal my state. It is not sorrow, 
it is not wretchedness ; it is anguish, it is the endurance of 
that pang which is the passing characteristic of agony. All 
that can prostrate a man has fallen on my victim head. My 
heart outraged, my pride wounded, my honor nearly tainted. 
I know well that ere a few days can pass I shall be the scoff 
and jest of that world, to gain whose admiration has been 
the effort of my life. I have only one source of solace — the 
consciousness of self-respect. Will that uphold me? A 
terrible problem that must quickly be solved. 

Farewell. I will not affect to wish you happiness, for it is 
not in your nature to obtain it. For a few years you may 
flutter in some frivolous circle. But the time will come when 
you will sigh for any heart that could be fond, and despair 
of one that can be faithful. Then will be the penal hour of 
retribution : then you will think of me with remorse, admira- 
tion and despair ; then you will recall to your memory the 
passionate heart that you have forfeited, and the genius you 
have betrayed. -q 

Lovers at all times are apt to be histrionic, and it is 
their privilege that they can be histrionic without being 
insincere. This, if true of others, is true still more of a 
man like Disraeli, and of his sincerity in the present matter 
we have the devotion of a lifetime as convincing demon- 
stration. The quarrel, of course, was speedily composed. 

From Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 

For God's sake come to me. I am ill and almost distracted. 
I will answer all you wish. I never desired you to leave the 
house, or implied or thought a word about money. I received 
a most distressing letter, and you left me at the moment not 
knowing ... I have not been a widow a year. I often 
feel the apparent impropriety of my present position. ... I 
am devoted to you. 

In later days she used laughingly to declare : ' Dizzy 
married me for my money, but if he had the chance again 

54 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

he would marry me for love.' The world had made up 
its mind tliat he had married her for her money, and it 
was her knowledge of the truth that made it possible for 
her to adopt the world's point of view. If her husband 
sometimes did the same, it was characteristic of the man 
to accept with easy acquiescence a theory which reduced 
his conduct to a lower plane of motive than that of which 
he was conscious. 

Parliament met in February, and Disraeli has himself 
depicted the situation in which Ministers found them- 
selves at the beginning of the session : 

The balance of parties in the House of Commons, which 
had been virtually restored by Sir Robert Peel's dissolution of 
1834, might be said to be formally and positively established 
by the dissolution of Parliament in the autumn of 1837, 
occasioned by the demise of the Crown. The Ministerial 
majority became almost nominal, while troubles from all 
quarters seemed to press simultaneously lapon them : Canadian 
revolts, Chartist insurrections, Chinese squabbles, and mys- 
terious complications in Central Asia which threatened im- 
mediate hostilities with Persia, and even with one of the 
most powerful of European Empires. In addition to all this, 
the revenue continually declined, and every day the general 
prejudice became more intense against the Irish policy of the 
Ministry. The extreme popularity of the Sovereign, reflecting 
some lustre on her Ministers, had enabled them, though not 
without difficulty, to tide through the session of 1838; but 
when Parliament met in 1839 their prospects were dark, and 
it was known that there was a section of the extreme Liberals 
who would not be deeply mortified if the Government were 

The great reforming impulse which had carried the 
Whigs into power at the beginning of the decade was now 
completely spent, and Whiggery, which was in fact a 
survival from the conditions of a previous age, had lost 
its vitality. As yet, however, there was nothing very 
definite to take its place, and so the Whigs remained in 
office, and Melbourne, the typical statesman of a time of 
transition, easy alike in manner and in political principle, 
remained Prime Minister. Of the duty which he dis- 

^ Endymion, ch. 65. 


charged so well, and for which his name will live in history, 
the training of the young Queen for her memorable career 
as a constitutional Sovereign, he was perhaps himself not 
wholly conscious ; and as his Ministry staggered on from 
humiliation to defeat, and he rode through every difficulty 
with easy nonchalance, there were few who gave a thought 
to the service which all the while he was thus rendering 
to the nation. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

[Fehruanj, 1839.] 
I went up with the Duke of Buckingham,^ Praed, Fremautle, 
Christopher, Blackstone, and a host of Horwoods, Brickhills, 
&c., as a deputation to Lord Melbourne on the Corn Laws, 
which was very amusing. Melbourne, frank and rollicking, 
evidently in his heart a thorough Tory and agriculturist, 
rubbed his hands and laughed; when the evil consequences 
insisted on, agreed to everything. 'And, my lord,' said some 
Horwood from Ely, ' will not the fundholder be endangered ? ' 
* Oh, of course,' said the Prime Minister,^ 

[Feb. 25.] 
My Dearest, 

Tommy ^ told me last night that he should bring the 
actresses on the stage again on Thursday night. I wish you 
would look into the books and let me know something about 
the matter. Is it ' ecclesiastical polity ' or is it a puritanic 
innovation ? If the latter, I would justify my vote. 

How was it in James the First's time and Eliza's ? Is the 
arrangement alluded to in the Book of Sports ? Payne 
Collier* — what says he? Or the other Collier?^ Find out 
what you can — that is to say, if you be well and have no head- 
ache — and let me have it on Thursday morning. This will 
give you a couple of days' research. 

I dined at Sir Eobert's on Saturday, and came late, having 
mistaken the hour. I found some 25 gentlemen grubbing in 
solemn silence. I threw a shot over the table and set them 
going, and in time they became even noisy. Peel, I think, 

1 Disraeli's friend Lord Chandos, who had succeeded on the death of 
his father, the 1st Duke, at the beginning of the year. 

2 Letters, p. 146. 

3 Duncombe, who had a motion for the abolition of certain restriction 
on theatrical entertainments in Lent, which were then enforced by the 
Lord Chamberlain in the City of Westminster. 

* Shakespearian critic. 

5 No doubt Jeremy Collier, the famous Non-juror, who led the move- 
ment for the purification of the stage at the end of the seventeenth century. 

66 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

was quite pleased that I broke the awful stillness, as he talked 
to me a good deal, though we were far removed ; he sitting 
in the middle of the table. I had Sir Robert Inglis^ on my 
right hand, whose mind I somewhat opened. He requested 
permission to ask after my father, and inquired whether he 
was at Bradenham, 

The dinner was curiously sumptuous. There was really 
* every delicacy of the season'; and the second course of 
dried salmon, olives, caviare, woodcock pie, foie gras, and 
every combination of cured herring, &c., was really remark- 
able. The drawing-room and picture-gallery were lit up, and 

the effect was truly fine. ... t 

•^ Love, 


My Dearest, ^'"^'^"^ t^"''- ^l' 

We dined yesterday at Scrope's,^ and met the Poulett 
Scropes, who are staying with him, the Murchisons, Sir Charles 
and Lady Morgan, and Lord Sudeley : the house magnificent 
and the contrast remarkable to the bare walls and Ionic 
meagreness of my last visit. Rooms crimson, with green silk 
curtains : spectral colors ; fine pictures, marqueterie chairs 
and some splendid cabinets: good dinner and silver-gilt plate. 
Paired off to half-past 10 anticipating debate on Mexico. 
Found Mexico put off and Tommy about to jump up : never 
heard a more entertaining debate. Duncombe's drollery 
inimitable. Though I had not intended to speak — I had not 
even your note in my pocket — it animated me, and though 
full-figged (in costume), I rose with several men at the same 
time; but the House called for me, and I spoke with great 
effect and amid loud cheering and laughter. Supposed to 
have settled the question, which, to the disgust of Govern- 
ment, was carried by a majority of 20. Never saw Johnny in 
a greater rage ; he sent for Alfred Paget, who was going to 
vote for us, and insisted that he should not. . . . 



1 A well-known Tory of the old school, member for Oxford Univer- 
sity, where he had ousted Peel on the Catholic question in 1829. 

2 William Scrope of Castle Combe. There was some family connexion 
between the Scropes and the Vineys, in which Disraeli after his marriage 
took considerable pride. In his last year of office as Prime Minister he 
endorsed a letter from a member of the Scrope family putting forward a 
claim to a dormant peerage : ' Mr. Scrope was a relation of Lady Beacons- 
field, and I am much interested in his case. His blood is the best in Eng- 
land. I don't wish to alter the laws of the coimtry even for the Scropes, 
but I wi.sh justice to be done.' Poulett Scrope was a younger brother of 
Poulett Thomson's, and had married William Scrope's daughter and sole 


On this and on many other occasions in these early 
sessions, Disraeli acted with the Radicals against the bulk 
of his own party. A week later, on the second reading 
of the Ministry's now annual BilP for the reform of Irish 
corporations, he found himself again in a different lobby 
from his leaders. Peel and Stanley had accepted the 
Government policy in principle, but Disraeli was one of 
a small minority, composed mainly of Irish Tories and 
extreme English supporters of the Protestant supremacy, 
who persisted in opposing the Bill. He was careful, how- 
ever, to dissociate himself in motive from the bulk of his 
allies. Disclaiming religious bigotry, he argued against 
the measure on the ground of its tendency to weaken the 
central government in Ireland. 'In England, where 
society was strong,' he said, 'they tolerated a weak 
government; but in Ireland, where society was weak, 
the policy should be to have the government strong." 2 
The significance of the Irish question cannot be exhausted 
in a formula, but in that single sentence there is more of 
wisdom and enlightenment than in many thousands of 
the dreary pages of Irish debate that are buried in the 
volumes of Hansard. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

March 9. 
My last speech was very successful, the best cotip I have yet 
made. And it was no easy task, for I spoke against the Govern- 
ment, the great mass of the Conservative party, and even took a 
different view from the small minority itself. I was listened 
to in silence and the utmost attention. Peel especially compli- 
mented me, sore as he was at the Conservative schism, and 
said, ' Disraeli, you took the only proper line of opposition to 
the bill ' ; and Hardinge, a sharp critic, said I had entirely got 
the ear of the House, and overcome everything. 


The game is in Peel's hands ; but he evidently has resolved 

that the Ministers shall resign and not be turned out. The 

Radicals clamour against him for not permitting them to 

assist him. However, all is bustle, and 500 members at 

1 See Vol. I., p. 328. 2 Hansard, March 8, 1839. 

58 MARRIAGE [chap, h 

prayers, in order to secure places. This is just one of those 
occasions in old days when I used to feel so mortified at not 
being an ^I.P. Assisthtg, as the French say, at such a ' crisis,' 
has considerable fascination, and all must feel it though they 
can't and won't confess. One cannot walk down Parliament 
Street under such circumstances without some degree of 

Ministers did not wait for actual defeat. Early in May, 
in a full House, their majority sank to five in an important 
division, and Melbourne at once resigned. 

To Mrs. Wyndham Leivis. 

Wednesday [Jfay 8]. 
The Queen sent for the Duke of Wellington this morning at 
12, and about 2 she sent by his advice for Peel, who passed 
in his carriage down Pall Mall, to the Palace, opposite the 
Carlton. He was in full dress, which is etiquette on these 
occasions. About 4 he left the Queen and went to the Duke 
of AVellington. iSTothing at 6 o'clock had transpired except 
that Peel had expressed his readiness to take office. 

George Street, 

2 o'clock [May 10] 
A messenger post-haste reached me as I was just turning the 
corner of Park Street to you, desiring me to come on here 
[Lord Lyndhurst's] instantly. 

Peel is out and given up the Government already in con- 
sequence of Whig intrigues about the household. I have not 
the slightest doubt that her Majesty will be obliged to sur- 
render. I am writing something which Lord L. thinks may 
be of service to them and myself. 

[May 12]. 

I have finished a letter to the Queen, and am now copying it, 
very exhausted. . . . There are all sorts of rumours, and the 
most credited are very unfavorable, viz', a Radical Govern- 
ment and a dissolution : but I hope they are Sunday lies. 

' This,' writes Disraeli in Endymion? ' was the famous 
Bedchamber Plot, in which the Conservative leaders, as 
is now generally admitted, were decidedly in error, and 
which terminated in the return of the Whigs to office.' 
Even in Coningshy and Sybil, written not many years 
1 Letters, pp. 149, 150. 2 ch. 58. 


after the event, he had come to the opinion that Peel had 
made a blunder : ' It was unfortunate that one who, if 
any, should have occupied the proud and national position 
of the leader of the Tory party, the chief of the people, 
and the champion of the throne, should have commenced 
his career as Minister under Victoria by an unseemly 
contrariety to the personal wishes of the Queen.' ^ At 
the moment, however, like a good party man, Disraeli 
defended his leader, and in his letter, which appeared in 
The Times ^ over the signature of ' Lselius,' he lectured 
the young Queen on the dangers of her resolution to 
retain as her companions the wives and sisters of her out- 
going ministers : 

Your Majesty has confidence in the strength of your own 
character. You are convinced that the line of demarcation 
between public duty and private affection is broad and deep. 
On all that concerns the State, you are assured that your lips 
and your heart will be for ever closed to the circle in which 
you pass your life. Be it so. I humbly presume to give 
your Majesty credit for all the exalted virtues which become 
a throne. But where, then, are the joys of companionship ? 
The Royal brow is clouded, but the Royal lip must never 
explain its care. The Queen is anxious, but the Lady in Wait- 
ing must not share her restlessness or soothe her disquietude. 

Madam, it cannot be. You are a queen; but you are a 
human being and a woman. The irrepressible sigh will burst 
forth some day, and you will meet a glance more interesting 
because there is a captivating struggle to suppress its sym- 
pathy. Wearied with public cares, crossed, as necessarily 
you must sometimes be, the peevish exclamation will have 
its way, and you yourself will be startled at its ready echo. 
The line once passed, progress is quick : fascinating sympathy, 
long-suppressed indignation, promised succour; the tear, the 
tattle, the innuendo, the direct falsehood ; in a moment they 
will convince you you are a victim, and that they have heroes 
in wait to rescue their Sovereign. Then come the Palace con- 
spiracy and the backstairs intrigue. You will find yourself 
Avith the rapidity of enchantment the centre and the puppet 
of a camarilla, and Victoria, in the eyes of that Europe which 
once bowed to her, and in the hearts of those Englishmen who 
once yielded to her their devotion, will be reduced to the level 
of Madrid and Lisbon. 

1 Sybil, Bk. IV. ch. 14. 2 of May 13, 1839. 

60 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

In another letter which ' Lselius ' addressed to Mel- 
bourne a fortnight later there is a character of Peel which 
deserves to be rescued from the oblivion of a newspaper 

Let me consider the character and position of a political 
leader whom, to use only the admissions of his adversaries, I 
may describe as a man unrivalled for Parliamentary talents, 
of unimpeached integrity, of unsullied personal conduct, of 
considerable knowledge, both scholastic and civil, and of an 
estate ample and unencumbered — one of long official practice, 
of greater political experience ; of that happy age when the 
vigor of manhood is not impaired, and when men have attained 
as much experience as, without over-refining action, is com- 
patible with practical wisdom ; when an elevated and thought- 
ful ambition is, not eager, yet prepared, for power, free from 
both the restlessness of youth and the discontent of declining 
age — epoches that alike deem life too short for delay. Add to 
this a temperament essentially national, and a habit of life 
pleasing to the manners and prejudices of his countrymen, 
with many of the virtues of the English character and some of 
its peculiarities ; confident, rather than sanguine ; guided by 
principles, yet not despising expedients ; fearful to commit 
himself, yet never shrinking from responsibility; proud, yet 
free from vanity, and reserved rather from disposition than 
from an ungenerous prudence ; most courageous when in 
peril ; most cautious in prosperity. It is difficult to estimate 
the characters of our contemporaries, but this I believe, though 
a slight, to be not an incorrect, sketch of that of Sir Robert 

To Sarah Disraeli. 


Dined en famille with the Duke of Buckingham, to eat 
venison ; a regular Bucks party. Sir East and a widow 
daughter, enthusiastically blue, and boring Chandos about 
my genius, who seemed quite puzzled and proud at having 
an author for his friend. I believe Lady Anna has not been 
allowed to read the tragedy \_Alarcos], therefore she hopes it 
will be acted. She is great fun. 


Douro's^ marriage has taken place: a great concourse and 
much cheering in the streets, and would have been in the 
church had not the Dean of Carlisle with apostolic naivete pre- 
liminarily warned the audience. The church crowded ; three 

1 The Times, May 28, 1839. 2 Afterwards 2nd Duke of Wellington. 


or four ladies in pulpit ; pews engaged weeks before. I have 
not seen the lady, but, according to Douro, she weighs 11 stone 
5 lbs. I hear a beautiful face, and came out last year. They 
were married before twelve, and at four o'clock he was riding 
in the park. 

I was at Madame Montefiore, n4e De Rothschild, as she says 
at court : a most magnificent concert. Two royal princes 
(Sussex and Cambridge) and the Duke of Wellington gartered 
and fleeced. Grisi and Persiani sang a duet, and the supper 
very splendid. The weather is at length charming, and I 
think you must really look after my summer costume. . . . 

Social London is rather dull, in contradistinction to political 
London; indeed no one thinks of anything but politics. I 
send you a very good thing in the shape of Theodore Hook's 
epitaph on Lord de Ros — 'Here lies Henry, 17th Baron de 
Ros, in joyful expectation of the last Trump.' I am reading 
the Indian papers,' which are the most amusing thing I have 
met with since the Arabian Nights. 

June 23. 

I didn't get home till half-past five on Friday morning, 
and had only time yesterday before post to receive the con- 
gratulations of my friends, which came thick as the leaves of 
Vallombrosa. How strange that nearly in despair at the end 
of the session I should have made by universal consent the 
best speech on our side on the most important party question. 
After listening to Ewart as long as he replied or attempted 
to reply, which was about ten minutes or so, I thought the 
moment he began to repeat by rote I might retire, and I went 
to the Carlton. The rumor of my success had preceded me. 
Canterbury was very warm ; he has always taken an interest 
in my Parliamentary career. It was Charles Buller who 
told him it was one of the best speeches. I had touched up 
Charley a little, though with courtesy. He is erroneously 
represented in the papers as not being in the House, whereas 
the ' laugh ' which you may observe in the report was occa- 
sioned by his taking off his hat and making me a bow. Two 
of my old foes. Lord Lincoln and Lord Ashley, tendered me 
their congratulations with extended hands. As for Alaixos, 
Colburn, on the strength of the speech I suppose, advertises 
it this morning as ' Mr. Disraeli's Tragedy.' 

Nothing, as a rule, can surpass in dulness the dead 
political speeches even of famous men, but these early 

1 The papers setting forth the antecedents of the first Afghan War, 
which was then in progress. 
■■^ Letters, pp. 151-153. 

62 MARRIAGE [chap, u 

efforts of Disraeli's have often a quality which preserves 
their freshness after tlie lapse of two generations. His 
speech on this last occasion, which occupies nearly two 
columns of The Times} is an excellent case in point. The 
subject in debate was Lord John Russell's scheme for the 
foundation of a central Education Board, with an endow- 
ment of £30,000 a year — the grain of seed which has 
grown into our present vast system of national education. 
Churchmen were jealous of the scheme as conceived in 
the interest of the Dissenters, and Gladstone had taken 
the high line of 'objecting to any infringement whatever 
of the principle on which the Established Church was 
founded — that of confining the primary support of the 
state to one particular denomination.' Disraeli also op- 
posed the measure, but was content with lower ground. 
' He was an advocate for national education, but it did 
not follow that he should also be an advocate for State 
education.' China and Persia in the East, Austria, 
' the China of Europe,' ^ and Prussia, with its paternal 
government, were the countries with highly developed 
systems of state education. Paternal government and 
state education, in fact, went hand in hand together. 
' It had been discovered that the best way to insure 
implicit obedience was to commence tyranny in the 

The same system which tyrannised in the nursery under 
the pretence of education would . . . immure old age within 
hated walls, under the specious plea of affording relief. It 
was always the state, and never society — it was always 
machinery, never sympathy. By their system of state educa- 
tion all would be thrown into the same mint, and all would 
come out with the same impress and superscription. They 
might make money, they might make railroads ; but when 
the age of passion came, when those interests were in motion, 
and those feelings stirring, which would shake society to its 
centre, then . . . they would see whether the people had re- 
ceived the same sort of education which had been advocated 
and supported by William of Wykeham. . . . No; other 

1 Of .Tune 21, IS.'IO. 

^ The phrase reappears in Coningsby, Bk. VI. ch. 3. 


principles had actuated the men of former days, and let them 
look abroad on England and witness the result. Where would 
they find a country more elevated in the social scale ? where 
a people more distinguished for all that was excellent in the 
human character. The time would come, if they persisted in 
their present course, when they would find that they had 
revolutionised the English character; and when that was 
effected, then they could no longer expect English achieve- 

Incidentally he protested against an attempt which had 
been made to raise the cry of ' No Popery ! ' Nor did he 
share the apprehensions of members on his own side, that 
the proposed system of education might lead to national 
infidelity. By a united effort of the sectarians the 
national Church might be overthrown, but the penalty, 
as in the time of the Commonwealth, would be the wild- 
ness of fanaticism, the fury and violence of contending 
sects, not the general spread of ' miserable, cold, and 
restless infidelity.' And when the moment of anarchy 
was past, and the people of England sought a return to 
peace, they would not plunge into infidelity, ' which was 
abliorrent to their nature, and at variance with all the 
better feelings of the human heart '; but they would revert 
to the Church of their fathers, or perhaps seek refuge in 
that other Church which 'had the advantage of being 
able to appeal to unrivalled antiquity, and also strongly 
to the feelings and imaginations of men' — the Church of 

To Mrs. Wyndham Lewis. 

July 8. 
Lord Fitzgerald^ asked me to dinner on Tuesday, which I 
have refused, as I hope to be in the House of Commons ; it is 
said that he is the most difficult man to dine with in London, 
and I therefore tell it you as a specimen of the Parliamentary 
barometer; for he is one who considers success in debate as 
the great object of existence. 

1 The Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald whose appointment as President of the 
Board of Trade in the Wellington Ministry in 1829 led to the Clare election 
and the triumph of O'Connell. 

64 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

July 8. 

I dined at Greenwich with the Duke of Buckingham on 
Saturday. A large party embarked at Whitehall in a steamer, 
but I went by land with Lyndhurst. A sumptuous banquet, 
and Brougham made nearly fifty speeches full of comic humor 
and fierce slashing of Whigs ; declared it was impossible to 
turn them out of power, to Chandos's blank despair, because 
they were not in power, to Chandos's chuckling relief. Lynd- 
hurst was also capital. I dined with him yesterday to meet 
Webster,^ who is, I believe, considered a veiy refined and 
spirituel Yankee, but seemed to me a complete Brother Jon- 
athan — a remarkable twang, as '^^rannical' and all that; he 
also goes to the levee. A tine brow, lofty, broad, and beetled 
deep-set eyes, and swarthy complexion. He is said when 
warmed to be their greatest orator. Strangford was there, 
very airy and sparkling ; all the rest Americans and principally 

Saturday [July 13]. 
My dearest Sa, 

I made a most capital speech on Chartism last night, of 
which The Times gives a fair and accurate report. The 
Morning Herald has taken up the speech and written a leader 
on it, and calls it 'a speech of very considerable talent.' It 
was made under every disadvantage, for the Tories, sup- 
posing Chartism would only be a squabble between the Whigs 
and Radicals, were all away, while the Ministerial benches 
were crowded — all the Ministers, all the Whigs, and all the 
Radicals. Peel, however, was in the House, having come 
down on the Penny Postage. It was a very damaging and 
disagreeable speech to the Government, and they didn't like 
it. . . . 

Powerscourt has invited its to pass our autumn in Ireland : 
he raves about Alarcos, and literally knows it by heart. He 
declares 'tis the finest tragedy that ever was written. Milnes,^ 
the poet, is astonished that I didn't give it Macready, as ' it 
would have made his fortune.' 

Strange that I never yet wrote anything that was more 
talked of in society, and yet it has never been noticed by the 
scribbling critics. 

My love to all. 


1 The American statesman. 2 f_,etters, p. 15.3. 

8 Richard Monckton Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton, 1809-1885. 
4 Brit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 

1839] ALARCOS 65 

There is some reason to believe that Disraeli had, in 
fact, submitted his play to Macready, who was then at 
the height of his fame, and that he only resorted to pub- 
lication when he had failed to get it accepted for produc- 
tion on the stage. The play as published was dedicated 
to Lord Francis Egerton, himself a poet, as ' an attempt 
to contribute to the revival of English tragedy,' and in 
this dedication Disraeli traced its origin, as he had 
previously traced the origin of the Revolutionary Epiek, to 
his Mediterranean journey, though, having learnt some- 
thing in the meantime, he entered the lists against Shake- 
speare with more diffidence than he had shown in his 
earlier challenge to Milton. ^ 

Do you remember the ballad of ' the Count Alarcos and the 
Infanta Solisa ' ? . . . Years have flown away since, rambling 
in the Sierras of Andalusia beneath the clear light of a Spanish 
moon, and freshened by the sea-breeze that had wandered 
up a river from the coast, I first listened to the chaunt of 
that strange and terrible tale. 

It seemed to me rife with all the materials of the tragic 
drama ; and I planned, as I rode along, the scenes and charac- 
ters of which it appeared to me susceptible. 

That was the season of life when the heart is quick with 
emotion, and the brain with creative fire ; when the eye is 
haunted with beautiful sights, and the ear with sweet sounds ; 
when we live in reveries of magnificent performance, and the 
future seems only a perennial flow of poetic invention. 

Dreams of fantastic youth ! Amid the stern realities of 
existence I have unexpectedly achieved a long-lost purpose. 

Strange and terrible the tale is indeed, as anyone who 
has read Lockhart's rendering of the ballad will be able 
to recall — too strange and terrible for success on the stage, 

1 As in the Epick we find a certain far-off mimicry of Milton, so in 
Alarcos there is a certain far-off mimicry of Shakespeare : 

' Thou art too young to die, 
And yet may be too happy. Moody youth 
Toys in its talli with the dark thought of death, 
As if to die were but to change a robe. 
It is their present refuge from all cares 
And each disaster. When the sere has touched 
Their flowing locks, they prattle less of death, 
Perchance think more of it.' 

Act III., Scene ii. 

VOL. II — F 

66 MARRIAGE [chap, u 

or even to give pleasure in a literary play. Disraeli's 
tragedy, as might be expected, shows sufficient literary 
workmanship to redeem it from contempt. There is a 
certain weird impressiveness in the development of the 
plot, and a certain measure of skill in the conduct of the 
dialogue. But horror is piled on horror till the reader 
has supped too full ; and though Alarcos may have been 
talked about at the time of its publication, it has never 
since found many admirers. While Disraeli was Prime 
Minister in 1868, an adaptation was produced at Astley's 
Theatre Royal. It ran for five weeks, ' with the loudest 
demonstrations of applause from delighted audiences,' as 
the courtly manager wrote to the author at the close, 
but, unfortunately, as he had to add, with heavy losses 
to himself as the penalty of his enterprise. 

To Sarah Disraelis 

[July 26.] 

I went down to Rosebank to a. petit bal given by the London- 
derrys, after a dinner to the Duchess of Cambridge on her 
birthday. The place itself is but a beautiful cottage, but 
there is a grand conservatory more than sixty feet long, lofty 
and broad in proportion, and adorned with festoons of flowers, 
formed a charming ball-room, and I met a great many of my 
friends. In reality, the brilliant moon, the lamplit gardens, 
the terraces, the river, the music, the sylvan ball-room, and 
the bright revellers, made a scene like a festa in one of George 
Sand's novels. 

[Auff. 16.] 

I dined at Burdett's yesterday. Dinner at seven o'clock 
precisely ; everything stately and old-fashioned, but agree- 
able. The house charming; the dining-room looking into 
delightful gardens, with much old timber, beyond St. James's 
Park. I got away by 9.30, and went down to the House, 
which I found dozing in committee, but I made a speech. 
Unfortunately, as generally happens on long committee nights, 
there was scarcely a reporter in the gallery. I analysed all 
the evidence of the constabulary report. It made great 
effect, quoting all the pages and names without any document. 
The complete command of the House I now have is remark- 
able, and nothing can describe to you the mute silence which 
immediately ensued as I rose, broken only by members hurry- 
ing to their places to listen. 


On Monday I was more than four hours at Lord Paimerston's 
private residence on business of no slight importance. Prince 
Esterhazy, who came into the dining-room whilst I was waiting, 
said, ' I have come to introduce myself to Mr. Disraeli. I 
have long wished to know you ; I read your speeches with 

The business with Palmerston seems to have had refer- 
ence to some member of the consular or diplomatic service 
who had been recalled by the Foreign Office, and had 
asked Disraeli to take up his case. 

From, Lord Palmerston. 

Stanhope Street, 

Aug. 15, 1839. 

My dear Sir, 

I am very much obliged to you for your note of the 12th, 
and for the patient attention which you gave to the long state- 
ment I was obliged to make to you ; and I can assure you I 
am very sensible to the great candour and fairness with 
which you have dealt with the matter which formed the 
subject of our conversation. 

My dear sir. 

Yours faithfully, 


Parliament was prorogued on August 27, and next day 
Disraeli was married to Mrs. Wyndham Lewis at St. 
George's, Hanover Square. ' I feel,' he had written to 
her not long before, ' that there never was an instance 
where a basis of more entire and permanent felicity 
offered itself to two human beings. I look forward to the 
day of our union as that epoch in my life which will seal 
my career : for whatever occurs afterwards will, I am 
sure, never shake my soul, as I shall always have the 
refuge of your sweet- heart in sorrow or disappointment, 
and your quick and accurate sense to guide me in pros- 
perity and triumph.' Many have gone to the altar with 
high hopes like these, but few have seen them come to 
such complete fruition. It was in some respects a 
strange alliance. In a curious document which survives, 

1 Letters, pp. 155, 156. 

68 MARRIAGE [chap, u 

Mrs. Disraeli analyses her husband's character and her 
own, and tabulates their opposing qualities so as to 
emphasise the contrast : 

Very calm. Very effervescent. 

Manners grave and almost Gay and happy-looking when 

sad. speaking. 

Never irritable. Very irritable. 

Bad-humoured. Good-humoured. 

Warm in love, but cold in Cold in love, but warm in 

friendship, friendship. 

Very patient. No patience. 

Very studious. Very idle. 

Very generous. Only generous to those she 


Often says what he does not Never says anything she does 

thiuk. not think. 

It is impossible to find out Her manuer is quite different, 

who he likes or dislikes from and to those she likes she 

his mauner. He does not shows her feelings. 

show his feelings. 

No vanity. Much vanity. 

Conceited. No conceit. 

No self-love. Much self-love. 

He is seldom amused. Everything amuses her. 

He is a genius. She is a dunce. 

He is to be depended on to a She is not to be depended on. 

certain degree. 

His whole soul is devoted to She has no ambition and 

politics and ambition. hates politics. 

' He is a genius, she is a dunce ' : there, naively stated, 
we have a fundamental difference which might have been 
expected to exclude lasting sympathy. If we add to her 
own testimony the testimony of those who knew her, we 
see in Mrs. Disraeli a woman vain, pleasure-loving, and 
effervescent, to the casual observer a little shallow and 
irresponsible, outspoken to the point of tactlessness, but 
of an exuberant kindness of heart which covered a multi- 
tude of defects ; of little mental cultivation, and in the 
things on which society largely bases its judgments — 
dress, furniture, and manners — of a certain oddity of 
taste which naturally grew more marked as the years 
went on, and made her a bizarre and unconventional 

1839] A HAPPY UNION 69 

figure. But, fortunately, Disraeli was bizarre enough 
himself to be blind or indifferent to many of her peculiar- 
ities ; and if his wife had little care for the things of the 
mind, she was very far from being a ' dunce' in the proper 
meaning of the word, as the tabulated characters set 
forth above, with the penetration shown on one side and 
the self-knowledge on the other, would alone suffice to 
prove. The ' quick and accurate sense ' of which her 
husband wrote was something more than a phrase. She 
had not only in liberal measure the gift of feminine in- 
tuition, but the rarer gift of judgment ; and in the lesser 
business of life, in which Disraeli himself was helpless, 
she had practical ability of no mean order. Marriage 
did not end his financial embarrassments, but it relieved 
him of their severest pressure, and it gave him at last a 
fixed home in London, and a companion who could shelter 
him from most of the sordid detail that he always found 
so distasteful. If there were nothing more to be said, 
these things alone would suffice to explain the ' gratitude ' 
on which he once laid stress, according to a well-known 
story, as the keynote of his affection. 

But there is something more to be said. Commonplace 
in intellect his wife may have been, but there was a strain 
of heroism in her character which, if her lot had been 
different, might have remained unrevealed, or at least 
unrecorded, but which, aided by the good fortune or the 
happy inspiration of her marriage to a man of genius, 
has won for her a place in the company of women whose 
names are held in honour. ' There was no care which 
she could not mitigate, and no difficulty which she could 
not face. She was the most cheerful and the most 
courageous woman I ever knew.' Such was her husband's 
tribute when, after more than thirty years, death came 
to part them. She may have had no ambition and have 
hated politics, as she tells us, but she knew how to devote 
herself with perfect singleness of purpose to her husband's 
career ; while her faith in his coming greatness, her con- 
fidence in his power of surmounting every obstacle, her 

70 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

buoyant couraofe in the hour of trial, and her invincible 
constancy in misfortune, approached the sublime. And 
she had her reward. Disraeli always found it hard to 
persuade the world of his sincerity, even when he was 
most sincere, but his bitterest enemies never ventured 
to cast a doubt on the sincerity of his devotion to his 
wife. Shortly before her death she told a woman friend 
that 'her life had been a long scene of happiness, owing 
to his love and kindness.' Her own testimony is sup- 
ported both by the testimony of all who knew them and 
by the testimony of the records, which is in this case, as 
it chances, hardly less convincing : for every scrap of 
paper that had once, for good or evil, been touched by 
' dear Dizzy's ' pen, and fell into the hands of his wife, 
became from that moment sacred, and was hoarded 
among her treasures ; with the result that we are able to 
catch illuminating glimpses of their intimate life such as 
would otherwise have been impossible. Throughout the 
thirty years and more for which their union lasted, not 
even the shadow of a passing cloud seems ever to have 
rested on their mutual aifection. When Disraeli wrote 
the glowing sentence, ' My nature demands that my life 
should be perpetual love,' he pitched his ideal high, but 
not higher than the actual truth which was realised in his 

The honeymoon was spent partly at Tunbridge Wells, 
and later in a Continental tour which carried them as far 
as Munich. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Tunbridge Wells, 

Sept. 4. 
We have had unceasing rain, and have therefore not left 
ovir rooms, which we lind very agreeable, except to drive to 
Bay ham ^ amid squalls, and an excursion to Penshurst yester- 
day amidst showers. De L'Isle was out shooting, but we saw 
the children, whom we found quite charming. ... I have 
only been ou the Pantiles once, and have met Lord Monteagle ^ 

1 Lord Camden's. 

2 Mr. Spring Rice had just been succeeded as Chancellor of the Exchequer 
by Mr. Francis Baring, and had gone to the Upper House as Lord Monteagle. 

Mrs. Disraeli, 1840 
From a picture by A. E. Clmlun, R.A., at Hugheudeu 


with whom I am very good friends, notwithstanding our skir- 
mishing. There is scarcely anybody here that we know, or 
care to know. 


Sejyt. 19. 

This is the most picturesque, agreeable, lounging sort of 
place you can imagine. A bright little river winding about 
green hills, with a white sparkling town of some dozen palaces 
called hotels, and some lodging-houses, like the side scenes of 
a melodrama, and an old ruined castle or two on woody heights. 
I don't think we shall stay more than a week. Mary Anne 
says it is not much better than Cheltenham — public dinners, 
balls, promenades, pumps, music and gambling. 

Oct. 2. 

We travelled from Baden to Stuttgart, through the Black 
Forest for two days — a region of uninterrupted interest, most 
savage and picturesque, though rich from its vegetation and 
occasional valleys of pasture. . . . Stuttgart a very hand- 
some town of the Turin school, modern but improving; but 
the Grecian villa of the king in the park is charming, and 
most tastefully furnished. We fell upon great fetes, which 
pleased us much. The king, surrounded by a brilliant court, 
sat in a pavilion in the midst of a beautiful mead, which was 
enclosed by tiers of covered seats, and distributed prizes to 
the Wurtemberg peasants for oxen, horses, &c. 'Twas much 
finer than the tournament. More than 20,000 persons I should 
think present ; the peasantry in rich and bright dresses, dark 
velvets with many large silver buttons, vivid vests, and three- 
cornered cocked hats. It was fine to see a family leading a 
bull crowned with roses, rams worthy of the antique garlanded 
for altars. After this races, which were not very good, though 
the passion of the king is for horses, and his stables are, I 
believe, the finest in Europe. The whole scene was very 
patriarchal, though her Majesty came in half-a-dozen blue 
carriages with scarlet liveries. The king rode a fine barb, fol- 
lowed by grooms, &c., in scarlet. 

We visited the studio of Dannecker, and I insisted on seeing 
the artist, whom I found a hale old man, more than eighty, 
but with a disorder in his throat which prevents him from 
speaking. He was much affected by our wishing to see him, 
and when we drove off opened the window of his room, waved 
his hand, and managed to say, ' Viva, viva ! ' 

I have read enough of Hallam to make me thirst for literary 
history in detail. ... I don't think his English literature 
his strongest point. He is very meagre and unjust — on Sir 

72 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

Thomas Browne for instance. Compare Hallam with Cole- 
ridge hereon. He never notices the extraordinary imagination 
of B. In general, I see in Hallam a dash of German affecta- 
tion in his style, which he has imbibed of late years. My paper 
is full. 

Thousand loves to all. 



Oct. 14. 

After a fortnight's residence in this city, I find it difficult to 
convey to you an idea of it. Since Pericles no one has done 
so much for the arts as the King of Bavaria. Galleries of 
painting and sculpture, Grecian temples, Gothic and Byzan- 
tine churches, obelisks of bronze, equestrian statues of brass, 
theatres and arcades painted in fresco, are but some of the 
features of splendor and tasteful invention which on every 
side solicit the eye, and which I can only allude to. . . . We 
have seen the king several times, tall, meagre, and German — 
a poet, which accounts for Munich, for a poet on a throne can 
realise his dreams.^ 

Hotel de l'Europe, Rue Rivoli, Paris, 

Nov. 4. 
We arrived here on Saturday very well ; and your very wel- 
come letters reached me instantly. October until the last two 
days presented to us a cloudless sky, which rendered our trav- 
elling from Munich to Frankfort very agreeable. We visited 
Ratisbon, a very ancient Gothic city. Walhalla, a height on 
the Danube, crowned with a Grecian temple larger than the 
Parthenon, but of beauty not less eminent, raised to the 
genius of Germany by the King of Bavaria; Nuremberg, a 
city which retains all its olden character, the Pompeii of the 
middle ages, and Wurtzburg-on-the-Maine, once the capital of 
a princely prelate who sojourned in a much nobler palace than 
our sovereigns. So to Frankfort, where after a few days we 
crossed the Rhine, having travelled in our tour by the waters 
not only of that river, but of the Neckar, the Danube, and the 
Maine : the four principal rivers of Germany. The Neckar 
and the Maine are charming, though not as famous as the 
Rhine, nor offering at one point such an aggregate of beauties 
as are clustered together between Bingen and Coblentz. The 
famous Danube is but an uncouth stream; its bed is far too 
considerable for its volume, so that it presents a shallow, 
shoaly look, with vast patches of sand and shingle in the 
midst of its course. 

1 T")israeli contributed a short paper on Munich to the Book of Beauty 
for 1840. 


Henry Bulwer, who is now a great man, called on us on 


Nov. 22. 
I hope to reach England in a week, and shall be very glad 
to find myself there again. The political horizon is cloudy 
and disturbed, but the serious illness of the Duke of Welling- 
ton, which has just reached our Embassy, may yet assist the 
Whigs on their last legs. I always hold that no one is ever 
missed, but he is so great a man that the world will perhaps 
fancy his loss irreparable. . . . We have been very gay in 
Paris and our friends very kind to us, having been invited to 
the Embassy, Canterburys, Sheridans, &c. . . . ]Mary Anne 
is particularly well, and in her new costumes looks like Madame 
de Pompadour, who is at present the model of Paris — at least 
in dress. . . . Paris is very much changed since my first 
visit ; there are trottoirs in every street, and in the most ordi- 
nary corners you find shops which Regent Street cannot equal. 
But their efforts in the higher arts, of which they talk so much, 
will not pass muster after Munich. We hope to meet my 
father quite himself again. 


His father, in their absence, had been attacked by an 
affection of the eyes from which he never recovered, and 
which ended in total blindness. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

Your letter would have made me very happy had it brought 
more satisfactory tidings of my father. I had persuaded 
myself from your account that the enfeebled vision merely 
arose from bodily health, sedentary habits, &c. We are very 
uneasy and unhappy about him, and we would take great 
care of him if he would come up for advice. Everything is 
very flat, and we live in the midst of perpetual fog, and shall 
be glad when business will let us find ourselves at Bradenham. 

Dec. 18. 
Alexander has just left us; he seems to think with skill 
and care my father ought to recover his sight. There is no 
news otherwise, except my father thinks me looking very well, 
which makes me fear he is really blind, as this is the first time 
in his life he ever thought so. Last week we dined en fatnille 
with Mrs. Montefiore to meet Antony Rothschild, who is to 
marry one of the Montefiores, Charlotte. There were Roth- 

74 MARRIAGE [chap, ii 

schilds, ]\[ontefiores, Alberts, and Disraelis — not a Christian 
name, but Mary Anne bears it like a philosopher. 

D'Orsay sent on his horse to Wycombe Abbey, as Bob 
Smith has none ' worth riding,' but he could not get out of 
the house the whole time he was there, even to pay you a 
visit. It was so foggy he was obliged to give it up. They 
had a roaring, robustious, romping party, of which he gave 
very amusing details. Playing hide-and-seek, they got into 
the roof, and Albert Conyngham fell through the ceiling of 
one of the rooms — an immense long leg dangling out. Carring- 
ton came to look at it with his eye-glass, but took it very 
good-humoredly. Great regrets on his part that I was not at 

1 Letters, pp. 156-164. 


The Condition of England 

That ' most capital speech on Chartism ' in the last weeks 
of the session of 1839, of which we have already heard 
something, calls for more attention. It is remarkable in 
itself as a contribution to the study of the ' condition of 
England question,' which had long been in Disraeli's 
thoughts, and which a few years later was to provide him 
with a subject for the deepest of his novels ; and it stands 
out among the speeches of his first years in Parliament 
as the boldest proclamation to his leaders and to the 
world at large that he had by no means abandoned the 
position he had taken up in the early stages of his political 
career, and that he still desired to see a regenerated 
Toryism resting on the broad basis of faith in the people. 

Chartism was the direct descendant of the older Radical 
movement with which Disraeli had been in sympathy at 
the time of his first incursions into the domain of prac- 
tical politics. Since the passage of the Reform Act, 
Radicalism had changed its character, and an entirely 
new school — the so-called 'philosophic' Radicals — had 
gained the ascendancy. With these, the orthodox up- 
holders of the Benthamite tradition — men like Grote or 
Molesworth in Parliament, or the Mills outside — Disraeli 
had never an)i:hing in common. But when he entered 
the House of Commons there were still a few Radical 
members of the older or philanthropic type — men, for 
instance, like Fielden and Wakley — who inherited the 



traditions, half Radical and half Tory, of Cobbett and 
Burdett, and were inspired, not by abstract theories, but 
by natural sympathy with the people and an active in- 
terest in their welfare. With these and their like Dis- 
raeli soon established friendly relations, possibly at first 
through Bulwer and Duncombe, who were Radicals them- 
selves, and as wits and dandies were already his friends ; 
and friendly relations led in due course, on certain sub- 
jects of common interest, to a working alliance. 

The philosophic school was essentially middle-class in 
its genius and ideals, but English Radicalism in its origin 
had been essentially popular and democratic. It had begun 
in the closing decades of the eighteenth century as a move- 
ment for electoral reform, its earliest demands anticipating 
the five points of the Chartists — annual Parliaments, man- 
hood suffrage, vote by ballot, payment of members, and 
abolition of the property qualification for a seat in the 
House of Commons. The movement languished during 
the Napoleonic wars, but renewed its vigour after the 
peace, with Burdett as its leader and spokesman in the 
House of Commons, and the counties as the main source 
of its Parliamentary strength, but drawing also much 
support from the manufacturing towns, which had been 
brought into existence by the industrial revolution of the 
preceding half-century. This revolution — the greatest 
of its kind in the history of the world — had introduced 
two new and disturbing factors into the old social order. 
On the one hand it had created a large and wealthy class 
of manufacturing capitalists, who regarded with jealous 
eyes the monopoly of political power that was now in the 
hands of the territorial aristocracy ; and on the other it 
had congregated in the great towns of England a multi- 
tude of workers — men, women, and children — the misery 
of whose lives was a disgrace to the nation. It was from 
this suffering multitude that the movement which 
ended in the first Reform Act drew most of its strength. 
Ostensibly, political enfranchisement had been the object 
of the agitation, but the deep sense of grievance which 


was the real motive power had been far more social 
than political in its origin. 

The revolution, when accomplished, proved, however, 
to be political far more than social in its significance and 
results. The workers by whose aid the middle classes 
had won their way into the citadel of power found them- 
selves shut out. In abolishing the rotten boroughs, the 
Whigs had taken occasion to make the borough franchise 
less popular than before; and if there was still a popular 
element in the electorate for the counties, it owed its 
preservation to the efforts of the Tories. The Reform 
Bill, in fact, as Disraeli had been quick to see, was an 
essentially class measure. Indirectly, no doubt, as he 
remarks in Syhil^ it tended in the long-run to further the 
cause of social amelioration. ' It set men a-thinking ; it 
enlarged the horizon of political experience ; . . and 
insensibly it created and prepared a popular intelligence,' 
to which the statesman could appeal for the redress of 
social evils. The people gained ultimately from the clash 
between the ideals and ambitions of the aristocracy and 
those of the middle class ; but at first it seemed to them 
that they had only changed masters, and in many ways 
for the worse, their new rulers being less sympathetic 
than the old, and having certainly far less of the instinct 
of public duty. From the beginning the new House of 
Commons gave very little thought to the condition of 
the multitude. During the period of Whig rule many 
great and memorable measures were passed into law, 
but in the domain of social and economic reform the 
achievement of the thirties is not to be compared with 
what had been accomplished in the unreformed Parlia- 
ment during the preceding decade under the guidance 
of Tory statesmen like Huskisson and Canning and 
Robinson and Peel. The ten-pound householders, who 
to their everlasting honour put an end at once to West 
Indian slavery, had no eyes for the slavery, hardly less 
real, that was close to their own doors. Class interest 
blinded the rich manufacturers to the foundations of 


human misery on which their wealth was raised, and the 
dominant philosophy of the hour was ready with con- 
venient formulae to provide a sanction for their indiffer- 
ence. Disraeli, writing in Sybil in 1845, thus summed the 
matter up : 

If a spirit of rapacious covetousness, desecrating all the 
humanities of life, has been the besetting sin of England for 
the last century and a half, since the passing of the Reform 
Act the altar of Mammon has blazed with triple worship. 
To acquire, to accumulate, to plunder each other by virtue of 
philosophic phrases, to propose a Utopia to consist only of 
Wealth and Toil, this has been the breathless business of en- 
franchised England for the last twelve years, until we are 
startled from our voracious strife by the wail of intolerable 

The two achievements of the new Parliament in the 
sphere of social legislation were a Factory Act to limit 
the labour of children, passed in 1833, and the famous 
new Poor Law of 1834. The Factory Act was the out- 
come of a movement which had been begun in the un- 
reformed Parliament by the Tory Michael Sadler, a man 
whose fame ought to be greater than it is, and continued 
after the Reform Act by another Tory, Lord Ashley, 
when Sadler had been rejected by the new middle-class 
electorate in the great industrial town of Leeds in favour 
of the very genius of triumphant Whiggery, Macaulay. 
Unhappily, Ashley's efforts, like those of Sadler before 
him, were to a great extent frustrated by the thinly- 
veiled hostility of the Whig Ministry on the one 
hand, and the fierce and open opposition of the manu- 
facturing capitalists and their allies, the philosophic 
Radicals, on the other; and in the result the provisions 
of the Act of 1833 were but a meagre and grudging con- 
cession to the crying needs of the case. The Poor Law 
of 1834 was an even more characteristic expression of the 
spirit of the new political order, both in its good points 
and in its bad. In the last decades of the eighteenth 
century and during the Napoleonic wars a change had 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 5. 

1839] THE NEW POOR LAW 79 

been in progress in English agriculture analogous to that 
which had substituted the capitalist manufacturers for 
the small masters in industry. Hitherto, the farmers had 
been on much the same social level as the labourers among 
whom they lived ; now, while the less fortunate sank to 
the condition of their labourers, the more fortunate 
formed themselves into a wholly separate class, and a class 
that, as long as the war lasted, remained highly pros- 
perous. At the same time the position of the labourers 
changed rapidly for the worse, their relation to their 
employers, somewhat as in the case of the workers in the 
towns, though of course less completely, becoming, in 
Carlyle's phrase, an affair of cash nexus. As the con- 
ditions of their life grew harder, the rural justices, who 
were charged with the administration of the Poor Law, 
began in a spirit of compassion the demoralising practice 
of supplementing wages out of the rates, and in the bad 
times of the war, when bread was at famine prices, this 
practice was extended, till in the Southern counties espe- 
cially the great mass of the labouring poor had been con- 
verted into paupers. 

For this state of things the Poor Law Amendment Act 
of 1834 was intended to provide a remedy. It put an 
end to great abuses, and the Spartan rigour with which 
it was administered may in the long-run have been salu- 
tary, but the future gain was purchased at the price of 
much immediate suffering. The transition to the new 
system was conducted with the ruthless logic of men 
possessed by a theory, and the first effect, undoubtedly, 
was greatly to increase the misery of the poor. If 
paupers are made miserable,' said Carlyle grimly, ' paupers 
will needs decline in multitude. It is a secret known to 
all rat-catchers.' 'That this Poor Law Amendment Act,' 
he added, ' should be, as we sometimes hear it named, 
the chief glory of a Reformed Cabinet, betokens, one 
would imagine, rather a scarcity of glory there.' ^ In its 
passage through the House of Commons the Bill had been 

^ Chartism, ch. 3. 


supported, not only by the philosophic Radicals and the 
main body of the Whigs, but also by Peel, who in such 
matters, indeed, was a more faithful exponent of middle- 
class ideals than the Whig leaders themselves. It had 
been bitterly opposed, however, by the small band of 
Tories and philanthropic Radicals, through whose exer- 
tions the Factory Act had been carried in the previous year; 
and when in 1837, the year after the new Poor Law had 
come into force, a period of bad harvests and bad trade 
began, the distress that resulted led to a formidable 
agitation for the repeal of the measure. 

With this agitation Disraeli was in active sympathy 
from the very beginning. He had been well aware, 
indeed, that the administration of the old law called for 
reform; and, as he indicated in one^ of the speeches of 
his first year in politics, he would have endeavoured to 
reform it by bringing the Poor Laws ' back to the system 
of 1795' — that is, to the old Elizabethan system before 
it had been perverted under the stress of the war. But 
he heartily disliked the Act of 1834, not only because it 
treated the pauper as a criminal, but also because it 
abolished the old parochial constitution, and violated, as 
he thought, in its centralising tendency the traditional 
principles of English self-government. As has been seen,^ 
he fulminated against the new system during his contest 
at Maidstone, like many other candidates in the elections 
of that year ; but, as both the front benches were opposed 
to the agitation, few of those who reached the House 
retained their interest in the matter, and it was ' quietly 
and good-naturedly hinted' to Disraeli, as he afterwards 
related,^ that if he wished to advance in public life he 
had better keep his opinions on the new Poor Law to 
himself. This hint, however, failed to deflect him from 
his course, and early in his first session, when ' an incon- 
venient and most unaccommodating Radical'* brought 
forward a motion for the immediate repeal of the Act, 

1 Vol. I., p. 220. * Ihid., p. 373. 

3 Speech at Shrewsbury, Aug. 27, 1844. * Fielden. 


he was one of a minority of thirteen Tories and philan- 
thropic Radicals who voted in its favour against the 
forces of the Government and the Opposition combined. 
This crushing defeat checked for the moment the progress 
of the agitation, but it was not sufficient, as we shall see, 
to bring it to an end. 

If the bad harvests which began in 1837 brought deeper 
misery to the agricultural poor, the bad trade by which 
they were accompanied made the condition of the in- 
dustrial workers, if possible, even worse. The descrip- 
tions in Sybil of the rural town of Marney help us to 
realise the sufferings of the one, the pictures of life in 
Mowbray and the mining district near it the sufferings 
of the other. It was under such conditions that Chartism 
had its rise. Misery turned the thoughts of the working 
classes once more to their invidious exclusion from 
political rights, and, recalling the old Radical programme 
from oblivion, they embodied its five points in a docu- 
ment which became famous as the People's Charter. 
Great mass meetings were held in the North during 
the autumn and winter of 1838, and when Parliament 
met for the session of 1839 a National Convention of 
Chartist delegates, which was called by its own con- 
stituency the People's Parliament, met in London at the 
same time. The Convention devoted its energy to pre- 
paring a monster petition in favour of the Charter ; and 
when, after some delay caused by the intervention of the 
Bedchamber crisis, the time for its presentation came, 
this petition, Disraeli tells us, ' was carried down to West- 
minster on a triumphal car, accompanied by all the dele- 
gates in solemn procession. It was necessary to construct 
a machine in order to introduce the large bulk of parch- 
ment, signed by a million and a half of persons, into the 
House of Commons, and thus supported its vast form 
remained on the floor of the House durinof the discussion. 
The House, after a debate which was not deemed by the 
people commensurate with the importance of the occa- 
sion, decided on rejecting the prayer of the petition, and 

VOL. II — G 


from that moment the party in the Convention who 
advocated a recourse to physical force in order to obtain 
their purpose was in the ascendant.' i 

In the debate,^ wliich as a matter of fact took place a 
month after the solemn procession, on a motion that the 
House should resolve itself into committee to consider 
the petition, Disraeli, who, as his letters show, had antici- 
pated the occasion, and carefully prepared himself, spoke 
immediately after the leader of the House. He had 
learnt a good deal since the days when he himself believed 
in political mechanism as a remedy for social evils, so he 
began by admitting the fallacy by which, as Russell had 
insisted, the petition was pervaded — tliat political rights 
would necessarily insure social happiness. But though 
they might reject the remedy suggested by the Chartists, 
they ought none the less, he argued, to try and cure the 
disease. The nature of the disease was not clearly under- 
stood. The Cliartist movement could not be explained 
as the work of professional agitators or as the outcome 
of mere sedition. Neither could it be wholly explained 
as the result of the new Poor Law, though he believed 
there was an intimate connexion between the two. Both 
Charter and new Poor Law, with many other evils, he 
would trace to the same origin — the Reform Act and the 
constitution which the Reform Act had established. The 
old constitution had an intelligible principle; the pres- 
ent had none. ' Great duties could alone confer great 
station,' and while the old constitution imposed great 
public duties on the small class to which it entrusted 
political power, our new ruling class was not bound up 
with the great mass of the people by the performance of 
social duties, and had attained political station without 
the conditions which should be annexed to its possession. 
Having thus gained power without responsibility, our 
new rulers naturally were anxious to save themselves 
trouble and expense ; hence on the one hand the cry 
for cheap government, and their eagerness on the other 

1 Sybil, Bk. V. ch. 1 . 2 juiy 12, 1839. 


to transfer to a centralised Government the social duties 
which they ought to have accepted as the necessary 
accompaniment of their new political privileges. Hence, 
for instance, the new Poor Law, which taught the desti- 
tute not to look for relief to their neighbours, but to a 
distant Government stipendiary. It would be said, 
indeed, that the Opposition were responsible in some 
degree for the enactment of the new Poor Law, and he 
admitted the fact ; but he also regretted it, and — here, 
we may fancy, with a fugitive glance at Peel — he thought 
their consenting to such a Bill was a very great blunder. 
The Tory party would yet rue the day they did so, for 
they had acted contrary to principle — the principle of 
opposing everything like centralised government, and 
favouring in every way the distribution of power. 

The noble lord (John Russell), who was tolerant of the 
advanced demands of his Radical supporters, treated the 
Charter with derision because it was not compatible with 
the retention of political power by the class which he 
had created ; but if he thought that in this country a 
monarchy of the middle classes could be permanently 
established he would be indulging a great delusion — a 
delusion which, if persisted in, must shake our institu- 
tions and endanger the throne. Such a system was 
foreign to the character of the English people. In the 
speeches of the Chartist leaders there was to be found 
the greatest hostility to government by the middle 
classes. They made no attack on the aristocracy, none 
on the Corn Laws ; but they attacked the new con- 
stituency, that peculiar constituency which was the basis 
of the noble lord's government. The whole subject, he 
was aware, was distasteful to both the great parties in 
the House. He regretted the fact. He was not ashameci 
to say, however much he disapproved of the Charter, h' 
sympathised with the Chartists. They formed a great 
body of his countrymen, and no one could doubt the} 
laboured under great grievances. This must always bp 
considered a very remarkable social movement. It was 


a social insurrection, and if they treated it as a mere 
temporary ebullition they would be grievously mistaken. 
Having thus made his protest against the indifference 
with which the petition was treated on both sides of the 
House, Disraeli voted in the majority by which the 
motion was rejected. Charles Egremont, in Syhil^ spoke 
on the same occasion, and a conversation in the novel well 
reflects the bewilderment which Disraeli's speech must 
have caused to Peel as he listened, or to any others who 
took the trouble to think of it at all : 

' It was a very remarkable speech of Egremont,' said the 
grey-headed gentleman. ' I wonder what he wants.' 

' I think he must be going to turn Radical,' said the War- 
wickshire peer. 

' Why, the whole speech was against Radicalism,' said Mr. 

' Ah, then he is going to turn Whig, I suppose.' 

' He is ultra anti-Whig,' said Egerton. 

* Then what the deuce is he ? ' said Mr. Berners. 

* Not a Conservative certainly, for Lady St. Julians does 
nothing but abuse him.' 

*I suppose he is crotchety,' suggested the Warwickshire 

' That speech of Egremont was the most really democratic 
speech that I ever read,' said the grey-headed gentleman. . . . 

' What does he mean by obtaining the results of the Charter 
without the intervention of its machinery ? ' inquired Lord 
Loraine, a mild, middle-aged, lounging, languid man, who 
passed his life in crossing from Brooks' to Boodle's, and from 
Boodle's to Brooks', and testing the comparative intelligence 
of these two celebrated bodies. . . . 

' I took him to mean — indeed, it was the gist of the speech — 
that, if you wished for a time to retain your political power, 
you could only effect your purpose by securing for the people 
greater social felicity.' 

' Well, that is sheer Radicalism,' said the Warwickshire 
peer ; ' pretending that the people can be better off than they 
are is Radicalism, and nothing else.' ^ 

Before the debate took place the Convention had been 
transferred to Birmingham, and there, three days later, 
there was a riot so fierce that the Duke of Wellington 

1 Sybil, Bk. V. ch. 1. 


sought a parallel for the scene of devastation in his recol- 
lections of the Peninsula. But when Russell, as Home 
Secretary, asked the House of Commons to authorise an 
advance to the Birmingham Corporation for the estab- 
lishment of a police force, Disraeli opposed, insisting that 
inquiry into the insurrectionary spirit should precede the 
grant of extraordinary powers, and in a House of 150 
he had the courage to enter the lobby as one of a minority 
of three ^ against the resolution. Next day, on the first 
reading of a Bill for the institution of a local constabu- 
lary, he accused Lord John of declaring war against Bir- 
mingham, and levying 5,000 troops against his former 
allies. His speech on this occasion drew a severe reproof 
from the Chancellor of the Exchequer,^ and an Under- 
Secretary ^ had the temerity to denounce him as 'an 
advocate of riot and confusion.' Disraeli in his rejoinder 
gave them both a taste of his quality : 

1 have heard some comments made upon me by the Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer and an Under-Secretary of State 
which I do not choose to pass unnoticed. Indeed, from a 
Chancellor of the Exchequer to an Under-Secretary of State 
is a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous, though the 
sublime is on this occasion rather ridiculous, and the ridiculous 
rather trashy. How he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, 
and how the Government to which he belongs became a 
Government, it would be difficult to tell. Like flies in amber, 
'One wonders how the devil they got there.'* 

At a later stage of the same Bill, Disraeli scored a pal- 
pable hit at the expense of Lord John Russell, who had 
ascribed the disturbances in the country to Oastler,^ a 
well-known Tory Chartist, and to the agitation against 
the Poor Law, in which Oastler had been a leader. 
' Far be it from me,' said Disraeli, ' to cope with the 
noble lord in endeavouring to trace the pedigree of 

^ Fielden and Wakley were the others, the tellers being Leader and 

2 Spring Rice. 

3 Fox Maule, afterwards Lord Panmure and 11th Earl of Dalhousie. 
* It is to this incident that Disraeli alludes in his letter on p. 70. 

6 Richard Oastler, 1789-1861, known as the ' Factory King,' Sadler's 
friend and chief ally in his crusade against the abuses of the factory system. 


sedition, but I confess I feel disposed to trace it to a 
higher source than Mr. Oastler. . . . There was a time, 
as you are all aware, after the Reform Bill had passed 
this House, when we were told 200,000 men were to 
march from Birmingham to assist the decision of the 
other House of Parliament. That was before Mr. Oastler. 
. . . The noble lord regards the Chartists as if they were 
the first body of men who had appealed to physical force. 
He talks as if the hon. and learned member for Dublin 
had never appealed to a petition signed by 50,000 fight- 
ing men.' ^ Peel in the next session took the same line 
of argument, and followed it with great effect. 

Rioting in the towns and rick-burning in the country 
continued during the recess, and at Newport in Wales 
there was positive insurrection. When Parliament met 
in January, a vote of want of confidence was moved from 
the Opposition benches, and the Ministry formally charged 
with responsibility for these disorders. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

House of Commons, 
Friday [Jan. 31, 1840]. 

Mt Dearest, 

This is a hurried sketch of our debate. Sir Yarde ^ was 
very bad, but not much less effective than Acland last year 
in a similar position; but more stupid, the difference being 
Sir Tom only stuttered, Sir John stuck. Sir George Grey 
made a dashing House of Commons speech which I should 
have liked to have answered, but as he concluded about 8, 
and I had not dined, it was impossible. I had no intention 
of speaking the first night, and am very sorry I did, for, 
although I said some good things and was very well received, 
I was debarred by circumstances from making the speech I 
had intended. The fact is the Government put up Gisborne, 
who is sometimes a most rakehelly rhetorician, and produces 
great effects in a crowded house, but uncertain. There was 
and had been for some time a general rumor that he was 
to make a great display, and when he got up Fremantle 
came to me and asked me to reply to him. He began very 
well, but after some little time regularly broke down, was 

1 The Times, Aug. 10, 1839. 

2 Sir John Yarde-BuUer, afterwards Lord Churston. 

A..t,Oh-.l»^ i< -"^ ■ 

Benjamin Disraeli, 1840 
From a picture by A. E. Chalon, R.A., at Hughenden 


silent for some moments, sent for oranges, coughed, stuck 
again and again and again, and finally, pleading ' some 
physical inability ' which had suddenly deprived him of his 
voice, sunk overwhelmed with his own exposure. We thought 
he was drunk, but the Whigs say the fault was he was not, 
and that when he is tipsy and is not prepared he is very good, 
I found, however, I had a lame bird to kill, or rather a dying 
one : and though I made a somewhat brilliant guerilla opera- 
tion, there was not that solid tactical movement that I had 
originally contemplated. 

The next night we had it all our own way, Howick making 
the most extraordinary announcement ^ which you have read 
and alone justifies the debate. Graham very rigorous and 
malignant, and Macaulay - plunging into the most irretrievable 
slough of failure you can possibly conceive ; nothing could be 
worse — manner, matter, and spirit, ludicrously elaborate and 
perfectly inappropriate. The Speaker with difficulty pre- 
served order, and it was clear to everyone that in future 
Macaulay will no longer command the House, on such an 
occasion, and to such a personage, of course, always lenient. 

Yesterday we again had it all our own way, Stanley being 
very effective. The debate is with us, but the division ^ — 
though Arthur Lennox has rallied to the Tories — will, I ap- 
prehend, be very seedy. 



Disraeli in his speech resumed towards the Chartists 
his attitude of the previous session. ' I am not ashamed 
or afraid to say that I wish more sympathy had been 
shown on both sides towards the Chartists. ... I am 
not ashamed to say that I sympathise with millions of 
ray fellow-subjects.' Guerilla operation as the speech 
may have been, it contains one passage that became 
famous — a characteristic fling at Lord John Russell : 

The time will come when Chartists will discover that in a 
country so aristocratic as England even treason, to be success- 
ful, must be patrician. They will discover that great truth, 
and when they find some desperate noble to lead them they 

1 In explanation of his withdrawal from the Ministry at the beginning 
of the recess. 

2 ' That unfortunate speech on Buller's motion in 1840 ; one of the few 
unlucky things in a lucky life,' was Macaulay 's own verdict many years 
later. (Trevelyan's Life, ch. 8.) 

3 The Government had a majority of 2 1 in a House of nearly 600 members. 


may, perhaps, achieve greater results. Where Wat Tyler 
failed, Henry Bolingbroke changed a dynasty, and although 
Jack Straw was hanged, a Lord John Straw may become a 
Secretary of State. 

In the course of the session Disraeli had the courage 
to help his Radical friends in attera2)ts to secure remis- 
sion of what he regarded, and not without reason, as the 
excessive punishment inflicted on some of the Chartist 
leaders,^ voting on one occasion in a minority of five ; 
denouncing the Whig Government as harsher in its prac- 
tice than even the Star Chamber ; asking ' how it hap- 
pened that the same thing obtained impunity in Ireland 
under the name of agitation, which in England was 
punished under the name of sedition ; ' and making a 
characteristic appeal to the Tory members around him 
not to forget that they were the natural leaders of the 
people. ' Yes, I repeat,' he added, in response to cries 
of protest from the Whig side of the House, ' the aris- 
tocracy are the natural leaders of the peojjle, for the 
aristocracy and the labouring population form the nation.' ^ 

His conduct in these matters drew an approving letter 
from a notable popular leader, Charles Attwood,^ of New- 
castle, to which Disraeli sent an interesting reply : 

To Charles Attwood. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

June 7, 1840. 

... I am honored by your approbation of my public conduct. 
I entirely agree with you, that an union between the Con- 
servative party and the Radical masses offers the only 
means by which we can preserve the Empire. Their interests 
are identical ; united they form the nation ; and their division 
has only permitted a miserable minority, under the specious 
name of the People, to assail all rights of property and person. 

Since I first entered public life, now eight years ago, I have 
worked for no other object and no other end than to aid the 

1 Six years later (March 11, 1846), when he had won a great position in 
the House of Commons, he spoke and voted again in favour of a motion 
with the same object in view, and was again in a minority. 

2Flansard, July 10, 1840. 

3 Founder of the Northern Political Unions, which played a great part 
in the Reform Bill agitation, and brother of Thomas Attwood, the member 
for Birmingham, Cobbett's ' King Tom.' 


formation of a national party. And when I recollect the 
difficulties with which this proposition struggles, and the 
contests and misrepresentations which I have personally- 
experienced in advocating its adoption, you may understand 
the extreme satisfaction with which I have witnessed the 
recent progress of events, and now learn, on your unquestion- 
able authority, that in Northumberland, long the sacred refuge 
of Saxon liberty, a considerable party, founded on the union 
in question, is at present in process of formation and of rapid 

None but those devoid of the sense and spirit of Englishmen 
can be blind to the perils that are impending over our country. 
Our Empire is assailed in every quarter ; while a domestic 
oligarchy, under the guise of Liberalism, is denationalising 
England. Hitherto we have been preserved from the effects 
of the folly of modern legislation by the wisdom of our ancient 
manners. The national character may yet save the Empire. 
The national character is more important than the Great 
Charter or trial by jury. Notwithstanding the efforts of the 
Whigs to sap its jjower, I still have confidence in its energy. 

Meanwhile, in spite of his sometimes aggressive inde- 
pendence, Disraeli had succeeded in winning the appro- 
bation of a leader whose approbation was never lightly 
given. In the first days of the session of 1840 Peel 
invited him to attend what would now be called a ' shadow 
Cabinet' — a conference of the principal members of the 
Conservative Opposition, sixteen in all, of whom, as Mrs. 
Disraeli proudly records, ' Dizzy was the only one who 
had not been in office.' On the very day that he received 
this signal proof of confidence he reasserted his indepen- 
dence by a brilliant incursion into debate in opposition 
to his leader, and by voting against him in the division 
that followed. The House of Commons had become 
involved in the famous affair of Stockdale, and was now, 
at the instance of both the front benches, about to 
commit the Sheriffs of London to the custody of the 
Serjeant-at-Arms for executing orders of the Court of 
Queen's Bench which were represented as a breach of 
privilege. An overzealous legal member, in the course 
of the debate, was foolish enough to enlarge on the 
tyranny of the courts in the time of Charles I., and 

90 THE C0:NDITI0N of ENGLAND [chap, hi 

Disraeli, who was well read in the history of that period, 
replied at once in a speech ' of great eloquence and vigour,' 
as the newspapers described it, in which he gave a vivid 
account of the tyranny of Parliament in the same troubled 
age, and showed that the tyranny of the courts was 
nothing in comparison. He ended with a declaration 
which has not lost its significance, that there was a differ- 
ence between the law of Parliament and the law of the 
House of Commons, and that 'he for one would never 
consent to see the country subjected to the law of the 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

IJan. 19, 1840.] 

Peel congratulated me very warmly on my marriage. . . . 
Yesterday I gave my first male dinner-party. Everything 
went off capitally ; Lyndhurst, Strangford, Powerscourt, 
Ossulston, D'Orsay, Sir R. Grant, and Sir L. Bulwer, &c. . . . 
I have been introduced at last formally to the Duke of Welling- 
ton at Lyndhurst's ; he accorded me a most gracious and 
friendly reception, and looked right hearty. The Queen is 
to be married February 10. 

5.30 [Jan. 23]. 

Since Tuesday I have done nothing but receive congratula- 
tions about my speech. . . . Lord Fitzgerald just told me 
that since the good old days of Canning he had never heard 
so brilliant a reply. . . . Hogg says it was not only a good 
speech : it was something better, an effective. 

The curious thing is that The Times, which gives an ad- 
mirable report of what I said, gives a most inefficient im- 
pression of the effect produced. I never heard more continued 
cheering: the house very full, about half-past 10 when I sat 
down, a prime hour and every man of distinction there. I 
never spoke better even in Bucks. It is in vain to give 
you any account of all the compliments, all the congratulations, 
the shaking of hands, &lq,., which occurred in the lobby during 
the division, but time and this damned post prevent all 
communication. . . . From Sir Robert Peel downwards there 
is but one opinion of my great success. Eliot very warm 

I have been to see the sheriffs in prison. They really think 
themselves martyrs. I told them they would 'live in his- 
tory,' and they answered, * No doubt of it.' 

Burn this egotistical trash. Love, 

. r>. 


Eastell, who dined with me yesterday, had just come up 
from old Lord Sidmouth at Richmond. The fine old gentle- 
man, now 85, takes the most lively interest in the question, 
and, strange for an old Speaker, is on the side of law. He was 
in raptures with my speech. 

Feb. 12. 
The Duke of Bucks has dined with me ; he was really quite 
gay and seemed delighted with everything, which with him 
is very rare, as society bores him. I have asked sixty M. P.'s 
to dine with me, and forty have come. I shall now rest upon 
my oars. We are in great confusion with Stockdale. He 
bore his examination with great coolness, without being 
audacious, and unbroken presence of mind. The sheriffs and 
under-sheriffs have been under examination, but the House 
only gets deeper in the mire, and I think the result is that 
they must commit the sheriffs, which will occasion a riot, 
and eventuall}' the judges, which will cause a rebellion. If 
Follett had not misled Feel originally, the Whigs would have 
been crushed. 

[Feb. 18.] 
My Dearest, 

I went up yesterday with our House,^ very strong in num- 
bers and very brilliant in costume ; but it was generally agreed 
that I am never to wear any other but a Court costume, being, 
according to Ossulston, a very Charles II. 

The peers preceding our procession by only half an hour, 
the golden carriages of the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker 
were almost blended in the same crowd, and the quantity of 
carriages and personages of note, to say nothing of courtiers, 
gentlemen-at-arms, and beefeaters, was very fine. All our 
men were costumed, but Scholefield and Muntz, and a few 
Rads, including, to my surprise, O'Connell, en bourgeois. The 
Speaker, with John Russell on his right and Peel on his left, 
both in the Windsor dress, marched up to the throne in good 
style; we followed somewhat tumultuousl3^ The Queen 
looked well : the Prince on her left in high military fig very 
handsome, and the presence was altogether effective. Always 
having heard the Palace abused, I was rather agreeably sur- 
prised: the hall is low, but the staircase is not ineffective; 
the antechamber, a green drawing-room, in which we were 
assembled for half an hour, leads at once to the Throne room. 
After the Bavarian palaces, all this is nothing, but I was 
amused, for the scene was busy and brilliant. 

My love to all. 
1 To congratulate the Queen on her marriage. 



April 20. 
We have found this place pleasant enough, the weather 
being very fine. I have eaten a great many shrimps, which 
are the only things that have reminded me I am on the 
margin of the ocean ; for it has been a dead calm the whole 
week, and I have not seen a wave or heard the break of the 
tide. There are a good many birds of passage here, like 
ourselves. I had a long stroll with the Speaker,^ who is the 
most amiable of men and not one of the least agreeable, fresh 
as a child and enjoying his holidays. 

June 1. 

After all, poor Lady Cork did not die of old age; she 
was arranging her plants in a new fashion and caught cold. 
On Saturday at Hope's I sat next to Rogers, and he made one 
or two efforts at conversation which I did not encourage ; 
but after the second course (Rogers having eaten an im- 
mense dinner), both of us in despair of our neighbours, we 
could no longer refrain from falling into talk, and it ended 
by a close alliance, the details and consequences of which 
are so amusing that I must reserve them for our visit. 

All the world has been this morning to Exeter Hall to see 
Prince Albert in the chair. Peel moved one of the resolutions, 
and produced a great effect on his Highness. 

Friday, June 12. 

The political world is convulsive : the Government, by 
extraordinary efforts and pledging themselves that if in a 
Djinority they would resign, having induced Howick and all 
the malcontents, rats, and shufflers to return to their alle- 
giance, came to pitched battle again last night, and were, to 
our surprise as much as their own consternation, ignobly 
defeated. After this occurred a scene which only can be 
compared to Donnybrook fair. O'Connell insanely savage, 
the floor covered with members in tumultuous groups, Strat- 
ford Canning pale as a spectre, with outstretched and arraign- 
ing arm, hooting, cheering, groaning, and exclamations from 
unknown voices in the senatorial crowd. Maidstone in full 
dress, fresh from the Clarendon, re-enacting the part of the 
English Marcellus, and Norreys with a catcall. 

To-day the Houses went up to the Queen with congratula- 
tions on her escape.^ I didn't go. 

On Wednesday the Lyndhursts, Ingestres, Ernest Bruces, 
Hoggs, Lords Munster, Claud Hamilton, Walpole, Gardner, 
Follett, and the Duchess Dowager of Richmond, dined with 

1 Shaw-Lefevre, afterwards Viscount Eversley. 

2 From the attempt on her life by the madman Oxford. 


us : very brilliant and successful, and Mary Anne much, 
pleased, particularly as she is going to-night to the musical 
ball, and afterwards to Lady Lyndhurst's supper, which is 
revived and is to be very grand. 

July 14. 

Last night I massacred Dr. Bowring.^ ... I answered 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was replied to by the 
President of the Board of Trade, who, however, had nothing 
to say for himself, and was obliged to take refuge in mere 
assertions. My facts flabbergasted him, as well as Bowring's 
champion, Hume, who was ludicrously floored. His speech, 
is not in the least reported, but convulsed the House when 
he said the 'hon. and learned member for Maidstone' had 
taken him by surprise, quoting authors he had never read, 
&c. &c. Peel most gallantly came to the rescue of his 'lion, 
friend the member for Maidstone,' and gave me immense 

Aug. 7. 

Yesterday Louis Napoleon, who last year at Bulwer's nearly 
drowned us by his bad rowing, upset himself at Boulogne. 
Never was anything so rash and crude to all appearances as 
this 'invasion,' for he was joined by no one. A fine house in 
Carlton Gardens, his Arabian horses, and excellent cook was 
hardly worse than his present situation. 

In a note of later years Disraeli recounts at length the 
incident at Bulwer's : 

- Bulwer, who then lived at Craven Cottage, gave a breakfast 
party there. We arrived late, and all the guests had gone up 
the Thames in a steamer. Walking on the Terrace, quite 
alone, two gentlemen who had arrived still later came up 
to us. These were Prince Louis Napoleon and Persigny. 
My wife explained to the Prince why the assembly was so 
scant. Upon which the Prince said : ' We will get a boat, and 
I will row you down to meet them.' 

There was a boat and boatman lingering about, whom we 
hailed from the Terrace. The Prince took the oars, and for a 
little time we went on very well. At last, to escape the swell 
of a steamer that was approaching, the Prince contrived to 
row into a mudbank in the middle of the river, and there we 
stuck. Nothing could get us off. I was amused by the 

1 A well-known Benthamite who had been employed by Government to 
make commercial investigations abroad, as the Opposition alleged, from 
motives of political jobbery, and at a greatly excessive remuneration. He 
was afterwards, as Sir John Bowring, Plenipotentiary in China, and became 
famous in connexion with the Arrow affair in 1856-57. 


manner in which my wife, who was alarmed especially, and 
not without cause, from the fear of other steamboats which 
caused a great swell on the water, rated the Prince : * You 
should not undertake things which you cannot accom])lish. 
You are always, sir, too adventurous,' &c. &c. &c. I re- 
mained silent. At length the boatman, who had come to 
the rescue, got us off, and we arrived again at Craven Cottage 
just as Bulwer's company appeared in the distance. Nothing 
could be more good-natured than the Prince, and I could 
not have borne the scolding better myself. We often used 
to smile over this adventure ; and many years after (1 think 
1856) my wife sat next to the Emperor at dinner at the 
Tuileries, and as he was chatty, and often adverted to the 
past, she ventured to remind His Majesty of the story, which 
he said he quite remembered. The Empress, who overheard 
them, said : ' Just like him.' 

To Sarah Disraeli. 


Sept. 7. 

We are staying a few days with the Maxses. There is 
no one here except Tom Buncombe ; but, as you know, 
the place is very beautiful, a paradise of flowers and con- 
servatories, fountains and vases, in the greenest valley with 
the prettiest river in the world. This was a former temple of 
Whiggery. Charles Fox's statue and portrait may be seen in 
every nook and every chamber, a sort of rural Brooks's. 

Walpole^ went to dine yesterday with the Miss Berrys, 
who now live at Richmond ; the party consisting of Miss 
Montague, Guizot, and Pollington — very recherche and 
' Strawberry Hillish.' The old ladies a little in love with the 
Horace Walpole of the nineteenth century, who, by the bye, 
is more elegant, fantastical, and interesting than ever, and 
talks of changing his name, retiring to Parma or Cremona, or 
some city equally decayed and unvisited. Venice too vulgar, 
with Monckton Milnes writing sonnets in every gondola, 
and making every bridge ' a bridge of sighs.' 1 breakfasted 
with him to-day, and he really was divine. I never met 
anything like him — such a stream of humor, fancy, philos- 
ophy, and quotation, in every language. When last in Egypt 
he met Botta, who talked of me much. 

Peace, peace is the order of the day, and French funds 
have risen 5 per cent, in one day. The Princess Augusta 
still lives, but everybody else in London seems dead. 

1 Afterwards 4th Earl of Orford. 


Throughout the autumn England and France were 
hovering on the verge of war, for this was the memorable 
year of the expulsion of Mehemet All's Egyptians from 
Syria, Palmerston's greatest triumph in his career as a 
Foreign Minister. With due reserve of judgment as to the 
intrinsic wisdom of the Minister's policy, Disraeli has cele- 
brated the achievement in a glowing passage of Tancred : 

When we consider the position of the Minister at home, 
not only deserted by Parliament, but abandoned by his party 
and even forsaken by his colleagues ; the military occupation 
of Syria by the Egyptians; the rabid demonstrations of 
France ; that an accident of time or space, the delay of a 
month or the gathering of a storm, might alone have baffled 
all his combinations ; it is difficult to fix upon a page in the 
history of this country which records a superior instance of 
moral intrepidity. The bold conception and the brilliant 
performance were worthy of Chatham; but the domestic 
difficulties with which Lord Palmerston had to struggle place 
the exploit far beyond the happiest achievement of the elder 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Oct. 15. 
The King of Holland has abdicated, and Beyrout, after 
a bombardment of nine hours, has been taken by the English. 
The Cabinet have decided on 'carrying out' the treaty of 
July to the letter, with only four dissentients. On dit that 
even Lord Holland, that old Gallomaniac, ratted to Palmer- 
ston, who is quite triumphant. Great panic exists here, and even 
the knowing ones, who from their confidence in Louis Philippe 
have all along been sanguine of peace, look very pale and blue. 
Alas ! that a Bourbon dynasty, even of Orleans, should abso- 
lutely depend for its existence on a Guizot or a Thiers, a 
professeur and a redacteur. My domestic ministry, which is 
as troublesome as the French, is provisionally formed. 

Oct. 22. 

Lord Holland was found dead in his bed this morning. 
This, though not considered as yet a very significant event, 
is in my eyes not unimportant. It breaks up an old clique 
of pure Whiggery, and the death of a single Minister, by 
causing Cabinet reconstruction, is always of some weight. . . . 

We have had a delightful visit to Deepdene. In the midst 
of romantic grounds and picturesque park Hope has built, 

1 Tancred, Bk. III. ch. 6. 


or rather is still building, a perfect Italian palace, full of 
balconies adorned with busts. On the front a terraced 
garden, and within a hall of tesselated pavement of mosaics, 
which is to hold his choicest marbles. We found there Mr. 
and Mrs. Adrian Hope, and Harness,^ now grown an oldish 
gentleman, but still juvenile in spirits, and even ready to act 
charades and spout poetry. Mrs. Adrian is French, a child 
of nature — never heard of Sir R. Peel. She is the daughter 
of the famous General Kapp. 

Nov. 21. 

There is no doubt that Acre has fallen, and therefore the 
matter is settled. What was the poor Pacha to do against 
all Europe ? He has been infamously misled by that rascal 
Thiers, a thorough representative of the gaminerie of Paris. 
In the meantime, the Liberals are infinitely disgusted with 
Palmerston's triumph, and quarrel among themselves in much 
the same fashion as Monsieur Thiers. . . . 

W^e intend spending Christmas at Deepdene, and from 
thence to Bradeuham. We had the Lyndhursts and Tanker- 
villes, with Cis Forester and Hope, to dinner the other day, 
when we had a perfect Spanish pudding. Lyndhurst recog- 
nised his old Bradenham friend. Tankerville's French cook, 
he tells me to-day, has been trying his ' 'prentice hand ' at 
it, but a fiasco. He says he finds a French cook can never 
execute out of his school, and Cis wants the receipt for the 
mess, but Mary Anne won't give it. 


Dee. 26. 
We arrived here a week ago, with our host and Adrian 
Hopes. Then came Mr. Mitchell, very amusing; Baron 
and Baroness de Cetto, Walpole, Lord de L'Isle, Sir A. Grant, 
and Lord and Lady Ernest Bruce ; two days after came 
Baron Gersdorf, Sir Hume Campbell ; and these formed our 
Christmas party, with the addition of the delectable Mr. 
Hayward . . . Our party very merry and agreeable, and we 
have had many Christmas gambols, charades, and ghosts ; 
and our princely host made all the ladies a Christmas box ; 
to Mary Anne two beautiful specimens of Dresden china, a 
little gentleman in cocked hat and full dress, and a most 
charming little lady covered with lace. A thousand loves, 
and good wishes for a real happy (Christmas and New Year. 
God grant it may turn out so for all of us. 


1 Doubtless William Harness, 1790-1869, divine and author, schoolfellow 
and friend of Byron, and at this time incumbent of Regent Square Chapel. 
^Letters, pp. 176-180. 


Peel's clumsy management of the crisis of 1839 had 
renewed the Whig lease of office for a longer term than 
he or anyone else expected. The popularity of the young 
Queen had waned after the Bedchamber affair, and had 
not been increased by her German marriage ; but it had 
been revived in full force by the attempt on her life 
in the summer of 1840, and the Ministry of which her 
popularity was the mainstay profited accordingly. The 
triumph of Palmerston's foreign policy in the autumn of 
that year had brought them great prestige ; and if dis- 
content was still rife, disorder at least had been checked, 
and the Chartists dragooned into a sombre inactivity. 
It was small wonder if for a moment in that winter of 
1840 many Whigs believed that the long downward 
movement had at last been arrested, and that their 
.party was in the fair way of recovering its authority. 

But, as Mr. Tadpole observed with much originality at the 
Carlton ; they were dancing on a volcano. It was December, 
and the harvest was not yet all got in, the spring corn had 
never grown, and the wheat was rusty ; there was, he well 
knew, another deficiency in the revenue to be counted by 
millions; wise men shook their heads and said the trade 
was leaving the country, and it was rumored that the whole 
population of Paisley lived on the rates.^ 

It was the fourth time in succession that the harvest 
had failed, and there was no sign of trade recovering its 
activity. Population had increased immensely since the 
end of the great war, and wages had been steadily falling; 
but up to a certain point there had been compensation 
for the fall in their higher purchasing power, and even the 
price of food had, in spite of the Corn Laws, on the whole 
been trending downward. During the twenty years before 
the accession of the Queen the wretchedness of the people 
had been due to low wages rather than to dear food ; but 
the long period of high prices, combined with exceptionally 
bad employment since the opening of her reign, had made 
the position intolerable, and some great measure of social 

I JSndymion, ch. 65. 

VOL. II — H 


renovation was clearly required. The Whigs appeared 
to be helpless ; Disraeli's friends, the Chartists, had come 
forward with their remedy, but it had been contemptu- 
ously rejected, and discontent, debarred from one mode 
of expression, was seeking another channel. 

It was now that the agitation, hitherto fitful, for the 
repeal of the Corn Laws began to gather power, and that 
the great question which was to transform the whole of 
English politics came to the forefront. The Corn Laws 
were so long the gage of party battle, and they raise 
issues with regard to which party feeling is still so 
vehement, that it is by no means easy to thread a 
way through the controversial tangle in which they 
are involved. Anyone who tries will find himself at 
once in a bewildering atmosphere of legend and exag- 
geration, of half-truths masquerading as indefeasible 
principles, and rival theories appropriating such facts as 
fit them, while ignoring the rest. When he realises, as 
he soon will, the iniinite complexity of the social and 
economic organism which is the field of investigation, 
and the enormous difficulty of segregating the eff"ects of 
any given cause in the multitudinous play of social and 
economic forces ; when he tries, for instance, to distin- 
guish between the influence on prices of tariff legislation 
in the first half of the last century and what in all proba- 
bility was the far more potent influence of currency con- 
ditions during the same period ; when he sees how easily 
even the best-established principles may be thwarted or 
obscured in their operation by counteracting agencies, and 
the readiness with which figures can without falsification 
be selected to prove any given thesis, he will be apt, if 
he set forth without partisan purpose, to take refuge in 
a sort of economic agnosticism. He will learn at all 
events not to trust the confident dogmatism of either 
school of partisans, and perhaps to suspect that the ques- 
tion of high tariff or low in its strictly economic bearing 
is a good deal less important than either believes ; and 
when he has also come to see how the economic question 

1839-18411 THE CORN LAWS 99 

proper involved in the controversy was overshadowed 
from the first by great politiccxl issues, he will not think 
more lightly of the difficulties in the way of retrospective 

The Corn Laws were a natural development of the 
great mercantile system the foundations of which had 
been laid by Burleigh in the reign of Elizabeth, and 
which, built up gradually during the storms of the seven- 
teenth century, was sedulously maintained by the Whig 
aristocracy that governed England in the eighteenth. 
Whatever its practical defects or the theoretical fallacies 
by which it was sometimes defended, this system had the 
merit of setting before itself a single definite aim, which 
it pursued with steadfast purpose, and which gave it 
unity and coherence. Its aim was political power, and, if 
it sometimes erred in its choice of measures, it chose them 
with more enlightenment, as is now generally recognised, 
than critics in the first reaction which led to its over- 
throw were disposed to admit ; and certainly during its 
sway of two centuries or more England rose to an aston- 
ishing height of prosperity and greatness. The system 
extended its reach over the whole field of economic 
activity, not only commerce and industry, but agriculture 
also. Up to near the end of the eighteenth century Eng- 
land exported corn, and for nearly a hundred years from 
the time of the Revolution production had been en- 
couraged by a bounty on export, which it is claimed, and 
it would seem with justice, helped to steady prices as 
between years of scarcity and abundance. Then came a 
period of transition, when imports were sometimes neces- 
sary, and for nearly twenty years, under an Act of 1773, 
there was comparative free trade. By the time of 
the French Revolution the home supply had become 
permanently deficient, and in 1791 there was a reversion 
to the old policy of encouraging home production, now, 
however, by the method of a duty on imports intended 
to exclude foreign supplies when the home price fell 
below a certain standard ; but under the abnormal 


conditions of the revolutionary wars this and subsequent 
legislation remained practically a dead letter. Prices 
soon rose to the point at which corn could have been 
imported at a merely nominal duty ; but foreign supplies 
were not available, and in spite of all efforts to increase 
the home production, wheat continued to rise till in 
1812 it actually reached the level of 155s. the quarter. 
With this result, of which the depreciated currency 
seems to have been the principal cause, the Corn Laws 
had nothing to do. Whatever the intention of their 
framers, up to 1815 they had in practice hardly affected 
the price of corn or bread; yet it was probably the 
recollection of those terrible famine years more than 
any subsequent experience that made the name of Corn 
Law stink in the nostrils of the people. 

The famine prices of the war had, of course, brought 
advantage to landlords and farmers, in spite of the 
burden of the rates under the old Poor Law, which grew 
with their profits ; but on the restoration of peace the 
whole structure of English agriculture seemed to be 
threatened with collapse, and the assistance of the legis- 
lature was accordingly invoked. It was natural enough, 
and in harmony with the whole spirit of the mercantile 
system, that something should be done to help the greatest 
national interest through a difficult transition ; but the 
Corn Law of 1815 exceeded all bounds, altogether pro- 
hibiting the import of foreign wheat when the home price 
fell below 80s. a quarter. ^ Fortunately, its injustice was 
frustrated by its ineptitude, and the attempt to maintain 
prices at the 80s. level was an absolute failure. En- 
couraged by the security, real or apparent, which the law 
gave to the corn-grower, the home production rapidly 
increased ; and when the resumption of cash payments 
had led to a general decline in prices, wheat fell in a few 
years to a level below the average of the generation that 
followed the complete repeal of the Corn Laws. 

1 By an interesting provision wheat was admitted from Canada at 67s. 
a quarter. 

1839-1841] THE LAW OF 1828 101 

The result was an inquiry into agricultural distress, and 
an attempt in 1822 to bring the law more nearly into 
unison with the facts by a reduction of the price at which 
importation began to 70s. a quarter. The failure to 
control prices was again, however, complete. When the 
Corn Laws became an object of party attack, there was 
much exaggeration of the evils they had caused. As late 
as 1840 Peel was able to show that the average amount 
of duty levied on all the wheat imported under these laws 
did not exceed 5s. 3d. a quarter. But in one respect their 
mischief could hardly be exaggerated. By depriving the 
country of the steadying effect of moderate importation, 
the Acts of 1815 and 1822 seriously increased the fluctua- 
tion of prices, and the Act of 1828, which eventually took 
their place, only made matters worse. This Act, which 
was passed by the Wellington Ministry, and which was 
the Act that remained in force till Peel took the matter 
in hand in his second administration, employed the com- 
plicated mechanism of a sliding scale of duties, the duty 
being nominal at 73s., and rising to a maximum of 23s. 8d. 
inversely as the price fell to 64s. It was obviously now 
the interest of the importers to hold back corn till prices 
had reached their zenith, and the fluctuations in conse- 
quence were more violent than ever. 

Moreover, by 1828 the moral justification for a Corn 
Law so stringent had largely disappeared. The earlier 
legislation had been an addition to a general code which 
gave a fairly balanced protection to all economic interests. 
But the country had been outgrowing the old mercantile 
system, and Huskisson had reconstructed it, during his 
memorable term of office as President of the Board of 
Trade from 1823 to 1827, to suit the new conditions. He 
by no means, indeed, discarded the traditional principle 
of regulating trade in the interest of maritime power and 
economic equilibrium, but he swept away a multitude of 
antiquated restrictions originally devised in the interest 
of commerce, and abolished or reduced an immense 
number of duties for the protection of industries now 




strong enough to stand alone. Though Huskisson is said 
to have been the inventor of the sliding scale, it is certain 
that he would not have applied it as it was applied in the 
Act of 1828 ; and it is unfortunate that he was not allowed 
or encouraged to deal with the Corn Laws in the same 
liberal spirit which he had brought to his reforms affect- 
ing industry and commerce. The question was left for 
settlement to Wellington's ill-starred Ministry, and they 
entirely forgot that Huskisson's reforms had made the 
position accorded to agriculture appear special and in- 
vidious, so that the Corn Laws henceforth wore the aspect 
of a class measure. 

In a sense the new Poor Law of 1834, by diminishing 
the burden of the rates, which under the old system had 
weighed so heavily on the land, tended also to deprive 
the Corn Laws of their moral justification. Otherwise 
during the period of Whig rule in the thirties the position 
remained unaltered. The Whigs were protectionists by 
the tradition of their party, and they suffered at this 
time from complete incapacity in all matters of public 
economy and finance. The Act of 1828, as completely as 
its predecessors, failed to maintain prices at the level 
that was aimed at ; and under it production so rapidly 
developed that, according to an estimate of Peel's on the 
eve of its supersession, nearly 90 per cent, of the wheat 
consumed by the nation was, in spite of the great increase 
of the population to be fed, still grown at home even in 
a bad year. In 1835, after a series of good harvests, the 
average price of wheat was actually less than 40s. the 
quarter, and as long as bread was cheap there was no 
practical grievance and little agitation. But when the 
bad harvests which began in 1837 forced up the price of 
corn, the question rapidly ripened. An Anti-Corn-Law 
Association was founded in Manchester in 1838, and by 
the energy of Richard Cobden was speedily developed into 
the organization which became famous as the Anti-Corn- 
Law League. As one bad harvest succeeded another, 
and trade continuously sank into deeper stagnation, the 

1839-1841] THE ANTI-CORN-LAW LEAGUE 103 

League became more active in its campaign of agitation, 
and the results were soon visible. The Corn Laws had 
been an open question in the Melbourne Cabinet, though 
the Prime Minister himself was a violent protectionist ; 
but whereas in 1837 only three Ministers had voted in 
the free trade minority, in 1839 no fewer than ten 
voted with Villiers on his now annual motion. After 
that year, as Chartism for a time fades into the back- 
ground, the League is at the centre of the political situa- 

The movement identified with the name of Cobden 
was not bounded in its scope by the question of the Corn 
Laws, and Cobden's triumph, when it came, meant far 
more than the triumph of a particular set of economic 
principles. The Corn Laws had become the symbol of 
the political predominance of the landed aristocracy — a 
predominance which had been rudely shaken, but by no 
means overthrown, by the passage of the Reform Act. 
It is a commonplace of history that some time is required 
for the disclosure of the full consequences of a political 
revolution, the traditions of the old order retaining their 
power long after the change in the political arrangements 
which gave them vitality. In our own days, for instance, 
we often hear it remarked that it is only now becoming 
possible to discern the real significance of the great ex- 
tensions of the franchise in the last generation. It was 
the same in the case of the Reform Act of 1832. Nomi- 
nally that Act established the middle classes in power ; in 
practice, in the Whig Governments that ruled England 
during the thirties, the aristocratic tradition remained all- 
powerful. The great bulk of their supporters were Whigs 
rather than Radicals, and the Radicals themselves were 
divided and impotent. Benthamism, indeed, which may 
be regarded in a sense as the middle-class philosophy, was 
already a great influence as a spirit in the air pervading 
political thought and informing legislation ; but it was 
only when it had been transformed into what the Germans 
call ' Manchesterismus ' that it attained its full potency 



in Parliament and party. Its professional exponents in 
the Parliaments of the thirties, the philosophic Radicals, 
were pedants without power of appealing to men in the 
mass ; and it was not till the genius of Cobden had taken 
control of the Radical movement, and given it a definite 
aim and fresh acceleration, that it became really effective. 
In Cobden, in fact, the middle classes found themselves. 
By his victory in the struggle that raged around the Corn 
Laws he dealt a staggering blow to the power of the 
aristocracy, and thus completed the work begun by the 
Reformers in 1832. 

His agitation from the first was so essentially middle- 
class that it was regarded with deep distrust by the 
populace and their leaders, who remembered the great 
betrayal of ten years before ; and from the Chartists espe- 
cially, who beneath the clamour for cheap bread suspected 
a middle-class design for the reduction of wages, the 
League encountered violent opposition. If the agricul- 
tural interest and their friends the Tories had known how 
to place themselves at the head of the masses from whom 
the Chartists drew their strength, if Peel had possessed 
a tithe of Disraeli's political insight or popular sym- 
pathies, Cobden's agitation might have perished inglori- 
ously, and the whole subsequent history of England have 
been different. But Cobden was helped from the be- 
ginning by the fact that the leader of the forces opposed 
to him was at heart on the side of the middle classes 
himself, and had no political ideal, aristocratic or demo- 
cratic, fundamentally different from Cobden's own. 
' There,' said Wellington of Peel, ' is a gentleman who 
never sees the end of a campaign.' Peel was trying to 
substitute for the Toryism of the past something which 
was almost a contradiction in terms — a middle-class 
Toryism. His Toryism was better than Eldon's in that 
it was in motion, but it moved, not according to prin- 
ciples or towards a goal of its own choice, but by a series 
of retreats before the pressure of the enemy, which could 
only end, as it did, in its facing about and adopting the 


enemy's line of march. Peel made no attempt to probe 
the grievances of the Chartists or devise a medicine for 
their ills. He was content to encourage the Whigs in 
their policy of repression, and to leave the suffering multi- 
tude without guidance or hope. And as a result Cobden 
was enabled to enlist their sympathy to a great extent 
on the side of his agitation, and, as had happened once 
before, to use popular forces for advancing the power of 
the middle classes at the expense of the aristocracy. 

Cobden was the real author of the middle-class Liber- 
alism which dominated England for more than a genera- 
tion, and the tradition of which is still so powerful ; or if 
there is anyone to dispute with Cobden the credit of its 
authorship, it is Peel himself. As the note of the old 
Whig order, Disraeli would have said, was oligarchic 
selfishness, so the note of the new Liberal order was a 
vague cosmopolitanism — both inconsistent, though in 
opposite ways, with truly national principles. With 
hostility to the Corn Laws and hostility to the landed 
gentry there was associated in Cobden's mind a certain 
hostility to the national idea of which the landed gentry 
were the especial custodians. During the long peace the 
national idea had gradually been growing dim, the very 
strength of our position among the nations of Europe 
tending to obscure it, and the cosmopolitan principles of 
which Cobden's mind was full met with a good deal of 
acceptance. He was to find, indeed, later, when he had 
overthrown the landed gentry and broken the Tory party, 
that the national idea was still stronger than he had 
imagined. The middle classes, when they had fairly 
entered on their long lease of power, chose Palmerston 
as their leader, and marched contentedly under his 
guidance into the Crimean War, forgetful of the reign 
of peace of which Cobden had been dreaming. In 
another direction, however, Cobden's influence was more 
effective. If to the national idea he was cold, he hated 
the imperial idea with a sincere and deadly hatred, and 
he succeeded in giving to the Liberal party, which he did 


SO much to shape, an anti-imperial bias that almost 
destroyed the Empire. 

Party in this country is rigorous in its divisions, and 
party would have us believe that the English world was 
then divided into protectionists who upheld the worst 
abuses of the Corn Laws, and free traders who adopted the 
cosmopolitan views of Cobden. Disraeli was in neither 
camp. He could appreciate the genius of the ' inspired 
bagman with his calico millennium,' to quote Carlyle's 
description of Cobden, but he never, like Peel, fell under 
his sway, and neither was he ever ruled by the fanatics 
of protection. He was one of the few people of that 
generation to grasp firmly the truth which has hardly 
even now found any wide acceptance — that protection 
and free trade were made for man, and not man for 
either of them. Free trade, as he maintained, was an 
expedient, not a principle, and that was the keynote of 
nearly all his speeches. From the first he was resolute 
in looking at the question as a whole and in its concrete 
relations, and in refusing to be drawn aside into abstract 
lines of argument ; in studying it in the light of history ; 
and in fixing his eyes above all on its political significance. 
' Reduce the burdens that so heavily press upon the 
farmer,' he said as early as 1832,^ ' and then reduce his 
protection in the same ratio. That is the way to have 
cheap bread . . . without destroying the interest which 
is the basis of all sound social happiness.' Apart from 
the effective cry of cheaper bread for the people, there 
were two main arguments, not wholly congruous, em- 
ployed by the opponents of the Corn Laws — one, that the 
high cost of living for which they were responsible made 
it impossible for our manufacturers to compete with the 
foreigner ; the other, that the free admission of corn from 
abroad would enable foreign countries to buy our manu- 
factures. The argument from the cost of living was that 
which chiefly weighed with the bulk of the manufacturers, 
and was strongly urged by Villiers in the session of 1838. 

1 Vol. I., p. 220. 


The answer, as Gladstone on the opposite benches and 
the Chartists outside Parliament were equally quick 
to see, was ' Thank you. We quite understand. Your 
object is to get down the wages of your workpeople.' ^ 
In his speech^ on this occasion Disraeli denied the premiss 
that the Corn Laws had any appreciable effect in raising 
the cost of manufacture, and he then proceeded to lay 
bare the political motive that underlay the whole agita- 
tion : 

Whose interest was it to have the Corn Laws repealed ? It 
was the interest solely of the manufacturing capitalist, who 
had contrived to raise a large party in favor of that repeal 
by the specious pretext that it would lead to a reduction of 
rents, and by obtaining the co-operation of a section in this 
country who were hostile to a political system based on the 
preponderance of the landed interest. 

Two years later, probably through the now rising influ- 
ence of Cobden, who was always guarded in his language 
as to the effect the abolition of the Corn Laws would 
have on the cost of living, Villiers laid the stress on the 
argument drawn from an abstract theory of exchange : 
' Repeal the Corn Laws, and you will create new markets 
for our manufactures, and England will become the 
workshop of the world.' Disraeli spoke again, protesting 
against the matter being considered and decided as a 
mere abstract question of political economy. The whole 
Cobden theory was founded on a curious belief in the 
total absence of competition between nations as a whole 
combined with the most strenuous competition between 
the individuals that compose them ; and Disraeli showed 
the danger of a one-sided development of the industry 
of the country, and the economic dependence that it 
must inevitably imply, and pointed to the fate of Holland 
as a warning against the belief that ' the industry of 
foreign nations was to be regulated by a mere devotion 
to our interests and necessities.' Tillage, the Dutch had 
said in the seventeenth century, was to them of no 

iMorley's Gladstone, L, p. 249. 2 y^ supra, ch. 1. 


account, for ' Europe was their farm,' and that expres- 
sion would be an appropriate pendant to the formula 
that Britain should be the workshop of the world. Such 
* arrogant aspirations ' were based, he was certain, ' on 
profound ignorance of human nature ; and however we 
might modify our own tariff, the industry of other nations 
would ramify into various courses, and would establish 
opposing interests in the same community.' ^ In the same 
interesting speech he showed how Prussia, which at the 
Congress of Vienna had only five million subjects, had by 
' the machinery of commercial union conquered Germany 
in peace,' quoting from the paper in which the whole 
plan of union was 'laid down by Stein, the celebrated 
Prussian minister.' 'If Prussia had conquered by the 
arms of her generals, the acquisition could not have been 
more complete.' Somewhat later ^ in the same session, 
in a debate on foreign policy, he showed again that he 
was studying the actual circumstances of foreign trade, 
tracing in detail the effect of Palmerston's rule at the 
Foreign Office, and arriving at the conclusion that 
'during the last nine years the commerce of England 
had received greater injury than in any other like period 
under any other Minister.' 

Though the Whigs were already doomed when the 
session of 1841 began, the end was slow in coming. 
Humiliation the Ministry cheerfully accepted, and re- 
verses they ignored ; and after what he called their sixth 
defeat of the session Disraeli wrote to Lady Blessington : 
' Their feebleness is of so vigorous a character that I 
doubt not they will still totter on.' As is usual on such 
occasions, impatient Tories thought that their leaders 
were remiss in not dealing the final blow, and Wellington 
especially was suspected of unwillingness to see a change 
of Government. Disraeli set forth ' the state of the case ' 
in a letter to the Duke which appeared in The Times^ 
over the signature of 'Atticus.' ' Atticus is a great hit,' 

1 The Times, April 2, 1840. 2 July 22, 1840. 

8 March 11, 1841. 


he wrote to his sister, and the letter certainly marks 
a notable advance in style on his earlier journalistic 
efforts. Beginning with the assumption that it was the 
Duke who was keeping the Whigs in office, the writer 
dismisses at once the explanation given by some, that, 
'satisfied by the celebrity of an unrivalled career, his 
Grace is indisposed to enter the arena of political respon- 

This idea of retiring on a certain quantity of fame, as some 
men retire on a certain quantity of money, has the twang 
of mediocrity. It is generally the refuge of those whose 
distinction has been more owing to chance than their own 
conceptions. . . . But original and creative spirits are true 
to the law of their organisation. An octogenarian Doge of 
Venice scaled the walls of Constantinople ; Marius had com- 
pleted his seventieth year when he defeated the elder Pompey 
and quelled the most powerful of aristocracies ; white hairs 
shaded the bold brain of Julius II. when he planned the ex- 
pulsion of the barbarians from Italy ; and the great King of 
Prussia had approached his grand climacteric when he par- 
titioned Poland. In surveying your Grace's career of half a 
century, I cannot perceive any very obtrusive indications of 
moderation in your purposes, though abundant evidence of 
forbearance in your conduct. Celebrated for caution, I should 
rather select as your characteristic a happy audacity. No one 
has performed bolder deeds in a more scrupulous manner ; 
and plans, which, in their initial notion, have assumed even 
the features of rashness, have always succeeded from the 
wariness of your details. . . . Your physical aspect is in 
complete harmony with your spiritual constitution. In the 
classic contour of your countenance, at the first glance, we 
recognize only deep thoughtfulness and serene repose ; but 
the moment it lights up into active expression, command 
breathes in every feature ; each glance, each tone, indicates 
the intuitive mind impervious to argument, and we trace with- 
out difficulty the aquiline supremacy of the Csesars. 

No ; if the Duke is reconciled to the continuance in 
office of the existing administration, it is not because he 
shrinks from action ; it is rather from an opinion that, 
checked by his power, they can do no harm, and that in 
the enjoyment of place they will not care to project it. 
An erroneous opinion, as ' Atticus ' thinks, for there is 


no little danger, as he proceeds to show, in 'a state of 

affairs which accustoms the great body of the people to 

associate the idea of regular government with that of 
revolutionary doctrines ' : 

As long as public credit is to be maintained, or the national 
honor vindicated, a tax to be raised, or an armament equipped 
— in a word, as long as anything is to be done — a successful 
appeal is made to the loyal support of the Conservative party ; 
but the moment that party evinces any ambition to possess 
itself of the forms as well as the spirit of power . . . some 
abstract declaration as to the nature of ecclesiastical prop- 
erty, or the exercise of the political franchise, is pompously 
announced; the capacity of an administrative body is made 
to depend upon the Parliamentary assertion of some un- 
feasible principle ; and by the assistance of the revolutionary 
majority it is demonstrated that the Conservative party are 
disqualified for the conduct of public business. . . . These 
ingenious manoeuvres are described in Ministerial rhetoric as 
the assertion of a great principle. 

A Parliamentary policy ' that permits the Whigs simul- 
taneously to carry on the Government by a Conservative 
majority and to carry on the revolution by a Radical 
one ' cannot be wise. Refined political tactics may 
mystify the popular mind. A nation perplexed, like a 
puzzled man, will blunder, and the blunder of a people 
may prove the catastrophe of an Empire. 

The great difficulty of the Whigs was the financial 
situation, and on the Budget of the year the crisis finally 
came. Bad harvests and bad trade, aided by the business 
incapacity of the Government and by an adventurous 
foreign policy, had brought the finances of the country 
into serious disorder, deficit following deficit till the total 
reached millions. The Whigs in desperation sought 
an exit from their difficulties in a tentative advance 
towards the principles of free trade. ' " Lord Roehamp- 
ton thinks that something must be done about the Corn 
Laws," murmured Berengaria one day to Endymion, 
rather crestfallen ; " but they will try sugar and timber 
first. I think it all nonsense, but nonsense is sometimes 
necessary." This was the first warning of that famous 


Budget of 1841 which led to such vast consequences, and 
which, directly or indirectly, gave such a new form and 
colour to English politics.'^ The Budget scheme included 
a reduction of the duties on foreign sugar and timber, 
and the substitution of a fixed duty of a shilling the bushel 
on corn for the existing sliding scale. But the country 
had come to the conclusion that Peel was the one man 
who could deal with the situation, and this simultaneous 
attack on three great protected interests by a weak and 
tottering Ministry precipitated the end. The reduction 
of the sugar duty favoured slave-grown sugar, and on 
this the Opposition concentrated their attack. The 
ground was well chosen for combining with the protec- 
tionists the uncompromising anti-slavery men on the 
Ministerial benches, and after a debate of eight nights 
the Government were defeated by a majority of thirty-six. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

May 15. 
I spoke with great effect last night in the House, the best 
speech on our side ; it even drew ' iron tears down Pluto's 
cheek,' alias, applause and words of praise from Peel. A 
full House about half-past nine o'clock, and all the Ministers 
there. . . . The times are terribly agitating, and I can give 
you no clue to what may happen. 

May 20. 
The debate on Tuesday was powerful and exciting. I 
dined with the Guests, but regained my post behind Sir 
Robert by ten o'clock, a few minutes before he rose. He 
spoke for three and a quarter hours, equally divided between 
commerce, finance, and the conduct of the Government ; 
the latter division very happy and powerful. I think it will 
end in dissolution.* 

The Ministry, however, had no false pride, and after 
their defeat they neither dissolved nor resigned, but only 
proposed to revert to the old schedule of sugar duties, 
and to proceed to the development of the rest of their 
scheme. Peel, however, moved a formal vote of want 
of confidence, and carried it by a majority of one ; but 

^ Endymion, cb. 65. 2 Letters, p. 181. 


even then, instead of resigning, Ministers decided to ask 
for a dissolution of Parliament, and this the Queen 
granted, though five years later she had come to the 
opinion that she had 'made a mistake. '^ In his letter 
to the Duke of Wellington, Disraeli had declared that 
'our domestic history for the last ten years had been a 
visible and violent attempt to govern this country in 
spite of its Parliament.' In the hnal debate he enlarged 
on the same familiar theme. 

The House of Commons affected some astonishment that 
the Government, being in a minority, did not resign. . . . 
The House of Commons, proud of its new-fangled position as 
a reformed house, had allowed the Ministers to stigmatise a 
vote of the House of Lords as the whisper of a faction ; but 
the poisoned chalice was now returned to their own lips, and 
they who had treated the House of Lords with insult now 
treated the House of Commons with contempt. Had they 
supported the House of Lords when it was insulted, they 
would not now be in the situation they occupied. . . . This 
was not the first time they were in that situation ; the conse- 
quence of Whig policy had been seen before this, when, being 
strong in the Lords, they assailed and insulted the House of 
Commons, and changed its existence from a triennial to a 
septennial duration. Throughout their whole history one 
thing was always apparent — a systematic course of assault 
upon the Parliamentary institutions of the country. The 
Ministers remained in power in spite of the House of Commons, 
and in spite of the House of Lords.^ 

1 See her letter to Lord John Russell of July 16, 1846, in the Letters of 
Queen Victoria. 

2 The Times, May 28, 1841. 


A Political Economy Parliament 


A couple of years earlier Disraeli had broken with his 
constituents at Maidstone. The dispute apparently arose 
out of some question of money, but its merits are obscure ; 
though it is easy to understand that, having, when he 
became their member, had a rich man behind him, he 
did not find it easy to satisfy the requirements of an 
exigent constituency when left to his own resources. 
Turned adrift from Maidstone, he had received, through 
the good offices of his friend Lord Forester, a requisition 
to stand for Shrewsbury, and thither accordingly he 
hastened when the campaign began. He was accom- 
panied by his wife, who played a great part in the elec- 
tion and won immense popularity. On the question of 
the day, Disraeli said in his address that, believing that 
the interests of the agriculturist, the manufacturer, and 
the merchant, were the same, he would ' resist the sacri- 
fice of any of these great classes to the fancied advantage 
of the others.' In his speech on the hustings he told his 
hearers that there were three great objects which he had 
always set before him for his guidance in public life — the 
maintenance of the constitution, the interests of the poor, 
and the liberties of the people. After a short but bitter 
contest he was returned by a substantial majority a few 
votes behind the other Conservative candidate, who had 
been longer in the field. 

VOL. II 1 113 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

Carlton Club, 

July 7. 

Here I am again, having been only five days out of Parlia- 
ment ! We had a sharp contest, but never for a moment 
doubtful. They did against me, and said against me, and 
wrote against me all they could find or invent; but I licked 
them, and the result is that we now know the worst; and I 
really think that their assaults in the long run did me good, 
and will do me good. After the chairing, which was gorgeous 
and fatiguing, after quafiing the triumphal cup at forty 
different spots in Salop — a dinner and a speech — we went 
and stayed till Monday at Loton Park, Sir Baldwin Leighton's, 
one of the most charming old English halls, and filled with a 
family in their way as perfect. A complete old English 
gentleman, whom I first met at Stamboul, a most agreeable 
wife, the finest amateur artist I know, and children lovelier 
than the dawn. . . . 

Are there any strawberries left, or will there be in a week ? 
We mean to run down by rail to see you. 

Thousand loves, 

In the course of this election, it is worthy of note, 
Disraeli's well-known crest, the Castle of Castile, with 
the now famous motto, Forti nihil difficile,^ made what 
would seem to be its first appearance, emblazoned on a 
Tory banner. All his fortitude and courage were needed 
during the contest. As the letter to his sister shows, 
he had to face personal attacks more than usually en- 
venomed, and they were directed on this occasion to the 
really vulnerable point of his financial position. When 
he was first announced as candidate, an anonymous 
placard ^ appeared accusing him of seeking a place in 
Parliament to avoid bankruptcy or a prison, and setting 
forth a list of judgments for sums amounting in all to 
X 22,000 which had been recorded against him within 
the previous three years. In an address to the electors, 

1 All is easy to the brave ; or, as a hostile paper preferred to translate it, 
' The impudence of some men sticks at nothing.' 

■■^ The charges of this placard were subsequently adopted by one Yardley, 
a barrister, and, according to the local papers, the quarrel became so hot 
that Yardley sent a challenge, and he and Disraeli were summoned before 
the Mayor and bound over to keep the peace. 


Disraeli declared that the statement of the placard was 
' utterly false,' and that there was not a single shilling 
in the list of judgments which had not been completely 
satisfied ; ^ explained that the judgments of recent date 
had been entered up by him as collateral security for a 
' noble friend,' who had subsequently relieved him of all 
liability ; and ended with the protest : ' I should not have 
solicited your suffrages had 1 not been in possession of 
that ample independence which renders the attainment 
of any office in the state, except as the recognition of 
public service, to me a matter of complete indifference.' 

As a matter of fact, marriage had by no means put an 
end to Disraeli's financial embarrassments. To his wife, 
from whom he appears to have had few or no secrets in 
any other matter, he seems at first to have adopted, with 
regard to his debts, the same policy of half- confidence 
that he had pursued towards his father. ' Very unwell 
from these damned affairs,' he writes, a year after his 
marriage, to Pyne, his solicitor ; and a little later : ' A writ 
delivered in my absence to my lady and other circum- 
stances have produced a terrible domestic crisis.' Pyne 
about this time seems to have fallen into decay, with the 
dire result that Disraeli was obliged, as he complained, 
' to attend personally to his affairs,' and personal atten- 
tion seems only to have made him an easier prey than 
ever to the rapacity of usurers. We find him, for example, 
borrowing money at 40 per cent, to meet a bill of D'Orsay's^ 
for which he had become responsible. His liabilities 
were now more than £20,000, and by his peculiar financial 
methods they tended constantly to grow. ' I cannot 
understand,' wrote his wife on the occasion of one of his 
customary 'operations,' 'why only £5,000 is wanted.' 
Probably, if the truth were known, neither could her hus- 
band. For every statement in his address in reply to 

^ To his solicitors he had written : ' On looking over the list I see nothing 
but settled affairs, but there are some names which were not personally 
settled by me. I take it for granted they are all right.' 

■- D'Orsay was most probably the ' noble friend ' who is alluded to in the 
Shrewsbury letter. 


the placard there appears to have been at least a formal 
justification, but it must be confessed that in its general 
effect it was hardly such as to give the good people of 
Shrewsbury an accurate view of the financial position of 
their candidate. 

The elections everywhere went against the Whigs, but 
the Ministry met Parliament, and only resigned after an 
amendment to the Address had been carried asfainst them 
by a majority of over ninety. In the debate on this 
amendment Disraeli spoke again, the burden of his speech 
being a criticism of the Government for remaining in 
office after the vote of want of confidence passed in the 
previous Parliament, and after it had become clear that 
the country was confirming the judgment of Parliament 
in the elections. Graham and Stanley, we are told,i 
showed their disapproval of this novel constitutional 
doctrine by a negative shake of the head, and it was 
left to Disraeli himself, more than a quarter of a century 
later, to create the precedent of resigning in anticipation 
of the verdict of a new and hostile House of Commons. 
Seeing clearly that, though the country had refused to 
entrust the task to the Whigs, the entire fiscal system 
stood in need of revision, he also attacked at once, as he 
was to attack often again, the assumption that the Whigs 
had a monopoly in commercial, as indeed in all otlier 
reform — an assumption which was then comparatively 
novel. ' Why, the progress of commercial reform,' he 
exclaimed, with much truth, ' was only arrested by the 
Reform Act.' The tariff, in his opinion, ought long before 
this to have engaged the attention of the Government, 
and must sooner or later be the subject of legislation. 
The nation had, indeed, declined to allow a Ministry which 
was ' rickety and staggering ' to attempt the reconstruc- 
tion of the commercial system of the country, but it had 
shown no lack of sympathy with the enterprise itself. 

"^ Lord Broughtori' s Recollections, VI., p. 40. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

Ang. 25. 
The speech was successful. Bernal ^ made a brioche, which 
I was delighted at, as he malignantly attacked me, and his 
manner was most flippant and audacious. After the first 
minute he commenced, 'Gentlemen,' as if on the hustings — 
cries of order. ' Well, I suppose you are gentlemen ' — cries 
of disgust. After this he five times made the same blunder, 
in fact lost his head. 

Saturday [Aug. 28]. 

I suppose that the Editor of the Herald, when the Queen 
sends for him to form a Government, intends to leave Lynd- 
hurst out, which is distressing. It is some consolation that 
he has made me Paymaster of the Forces, which is agreeable. 
As for all these editorial figments and newspaper on dits, they 
are manufactured for country cousins. Peel never ojyeiis his 
mouth, and very properly ; until he is entrusted with the task 
of forming a Government, it would be the height of arrogant 
impertinence in him to appoint any of his colleagues. . . . 

We are frightened out of our wits about the harvest, but 
as the glass has been gradually rising for some days I do not 
despair. If the sun ever shine again we shall get down to 
Bradenham, I hope, but about Monday I shall be able to write 
more definitely.^ 

The fatal division had been taken the night before this 
letter was written, and on Monday, August 30, Peel went 
to Windsor and kissed hands as Prime Minister. His 
Cabinet was soon completed, with Lyndhurst as Lord 
Chancellor ; Graham, Aberdeen, and Stanley, Home, 
Foreign, and Colonial Secretaries ; and the Duke of 
Wellington leader in the Lords, without the burden of 
office. By the end of the week most of the subordinate 
offices in the Ministry had been filled, but day followed 
day and no messenger or message came to Grosvenor 
Gate, and on the Sunday, in despair, Disraeli wrote to 
the Prime Minister : 

1 Ralph Bemal, afterwards Bernal Osborne, Whig member for 

2 Brit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 


To Sir Robert Peel. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

Sept. 5, 1841 

Dear Sir Robert, 

I have shrunk from obtruding myself upon you at this 
moment, and should have continued to do so if there were 
anyone on whom I could rely to express my feelings. 

I am not going to trouble you with claims similar to those 
with which you must be wearied. I will not say that I have 
fought since 1834 foxir contests for your party, that T have 
expended great sums, have exerted my intelligence to the 
utmost for the propagation of your policy, and have that 
position in life which can command a costly seat. 

But there is one peculiarit}^ in my case on which I cannot 
be silent. I have had to struggle against a storm of political 
hate and malice which few men ever experienced, from the 
moment, at the instigation of a member of your Cabinet, I 
enrolled myself under your banner, and I have only been sus- 
tained under these trials by the conviction that the day 
would come when the foremost man of this countiy would 
publicly testify that he had some respect for my ability and 
my character. 

I confess to be vinrecognised at this moment by you appears 
to me to be overwhelming, and I appeal to your own heart — 
to that justice and that magnanimity which I feel are your 
characteristics — to save me from an intolerable humiliation. 
Believe me, dear Sir Robert, 

Your faithful servant, 

B. Disraeli. 

Mrs. Disraeli, who, as has been seen, was an intimate 
friend of Peel's sister, had written the night before 
without her husband's knowledge : 

Mrs. Disraeli to Sir Robert Peel. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

Saturday night. 

Dear Sir Robert Peel, 

I beg you not to be angry with me for my intrusion, but 

I am overwhelmed with anxiety. My husband's political 

career is for ever crushed, if you do not appreciate him. 

Mr. Disraeli's exertions are not unknown to you, but there 
is much he has done that you cannot be aware of, though 
they have had no other aim but to do you honour, no wish for 
recompense but your approbation. 

He has gone farther than most to make your opponents his 


personal enemies. He has stood for most expensive elections 
since 1834, and gained seats from Whigs in two, and I pledge 
myself as far as one seat, that it shall always be at your 

Literature he has abandoned for politics. Do not destroy 
all his hopes, and make him feel his life has been a mistake. 

May I venture to name my own humble but enthusiastic 
exertions in times gone by for the party, or rather for your 
own splendid self ? They will tell you at Maidstone that more 
than £40,000 was spent through my influence only. 

Be pleased not to answer this, as I do not wish any human 
being to know I have wa-itten to you this humble petition. 
I am now, as ever, dear Sir Eobert, 
Your most faithful servant, 

Maky Ajstne Disraeli.^ 

Peel replied to Disraeli : 

From Sir Robert Peel. 


Sept. 7, 1841. 
Mt dear Sir, 

I must in the first place observe that no member of the 
Cabinet which I have formed ever received from me the 
slightest authority to make to you the communication to 
which you refer. 

Had I been consulted by that person, I should have at once 
declined to authorise a communication which would have 
been altogether at variance with the principle on which I 
have uniformly acted in respect to political engagements, and 
by adhering to which I have left myself at entire liberty to 
reconcile — as far as my limited means allow — justice to 
individual claims with the eflicient conduct of the public 

I know not who is the member of the Cabinet to whom you 
allude, and cannot but think he acted very imprudently. 
But quite indejjendently of this consideration, I should have 
been very happy had it been in my power to avail myself of 
your offer of service ; and your letter is one of the many I 
receive which too forcibly impress upon me how painful and 
invidious is the duty which I have been compelled to under- 
take. I am only supported in it by the consciousness that 
my desire has been to do justice. 

1 Thirty-six years later the wheel had come full circle, and, oddly enough, 
Peel's daughter-in-law wrote to Lord Beaconstield to inform him that her 
husband was ' most anxious to serve ' him in the event of any change in 
his Government leading to a vacancy. 


I trust also that, when candidates for Parliamentary office 
calmly reflect on my position, and the appointments I have 
made — when they review the names of those previously con- 
nected with me in public life whom I have been absolutely 
compelled to exclude, the claims founded on acceptance of 
office in 1834 with the almost hopeless prospects of that day. 
the claims, too, founded on new party combinations — I trust 
they will then understand how perfectly insufficient are the 
means at my disposal to meet the wishes that are conveyed 
to me by men whose co-operation I should be proud to have, 
and whose qualifications and pretensions for office I do not 

Believe me, my dear sir, 

Very faithfully yours, 

Robert Peel. 

This reply drew a second letter from Disraeli : 

To Sir Robert Peel. 

Gkosvenor Gate, 

Sept. 8, 1841. 

Dear Sir Robert, 

Justice requires that I should state that you have entirely 
misconceived my meaning, in supposing that I intended even 
to intimate that a promise of official promotion had ever 
been made to me, at any time, by any member of your 

I have ever been aware that it was not in the power of any 
member of your Cabinet to fulfil such engagements, had he 
made them : permit me to add that it is utterly alien from 
my nature to bargain and stipulate on such subjects. Parlia- 
mentary office should be the recognition of party service and 
Parliamentary ability, and as such only was it to me an object 
of ambition. 

It appears to me that you have mistaken an allusion to 
my confidence in your sympathy for a reference to a pledge 
received from a third person. If such a pledge had been given 
me by yourself, and not redeemed, I should have taken refuge 
in silence. Not to be appreciated may be a mortification : 
to be baulked of a promised reward is only a vulgar accident of 
life, to be borne without a murmur. 

Your faithful servant, 

B. Disraeli. 

There for the present the matter remained at rest. 
Offers of service and requests for ' recognition ' when a 
Ministry is in the making are far more common than the 


outside world realises, and there was nothing that was 
discreditable either in the fact or in the mode of Disraeli's 
application. His rejoinder to Peel's reply is not without 
dignity, while that reply itself smacks of the debater, 
reading into Disraeli's letter an interpretation which it 
will not bear, and expatiating on this in order to cover 
embarrassment. Peel's tone, in fact, betrays a certain 
consciousness that his omission of Disraeli stood in need 
of explanation. For one habitually so cold and ungracious 
in his manner, he had shown in Disraeli an interest that 
was exceptional ; had honoured him more than once with 
marks of appreciation, and had gone out of his way to 
take him into his counsels. In his first Parliament, Dis- 
raeli, though ready enough, as we have seen, to assert 
his independence when opportunity offered, had yielded 
for the most part a submission to his leader that was 
sometimes even ostentatious ; and the leader in his turn 
had betrayed no resentment at his follower's occasional 
guerilla operations. Only a few weeks before the corre- 
spondence just set forth, Peel had sent a friendly acknow- 
ledgment of a letter in which Disraeli announced his 
victory at Shrewsbury. Moreover, notwithstanding Peel's 
proverbial lack of foresight, he could hardly, with his 
intimate knowledge and long experience of the House of 
Commons, have been blind to the possibility that a Dis- 
raeli estranged might mean trouble in the future. Why, 
then, did he ignore him in the formation of his Ministry? 
The fact is, it is almost certain that Peel really wanted 
to give Disraeli office. Apart from traditions that have 
been handed down to this effect, there is one definite 
statement. In 1854 an article appeared in a newspaper^ 
which had been founded by Disraeli himself, defending 
him against the attacks of a more than usually malevolent 
' biography ' that had just made its appearance. This 
article was written, as Disraeli's papers show, by his 
friend George Smythe, who was also a friend of Peel's, 
had held office under Peel in 1846, when Disraeli's 

1 The Press, Jan. 7, 1854. 


rebellion was at its height, and sat with him in the House 
of Commons till his death in 1850 ; and it contains this 
statement : ' The common opinion that Peel did not 
appreciate Disraeli is a mistake. The present writer is 
aware that Sir Robert wished to offer office to Mr. Dis- 
raeli in 1841. This was prevented by the political para- 
sites by whom it was the weakness of the great Minister 
to be surrounded, and we owe to this circumstance those 
immortal sketches of the Rigbys, the Tadpoles, and the 
Tapers, which Beaumarchais never surpassed.' The sug- 
gestion here appears to be that Peel was turned from his 
purpose by the Crokers and Bonhams, and men of that 
type and standing ; but there is a story^ which seems to 
provide a better explanation, that Stanley was the real 
cause of Peel's change of mind. It has been mentioned 
before that Stanley was at tliis time deeply prejudiced 
against Disraeli — through misapprehension of the facts of 
an incident ten years earlier, in which a member of his 
family and Disraeli had been involved, but in which Dis- 
raeli's part appears to have been rather creditable than 
the reverse ; and, according to the story, when Peel sug- 
gested Disraeli as eligible for office, Stanley declared, in 
his usual vehement way, that ' if that scoundrel were 
taken in he would not remain himself. '^ If this be the 
true account, we may imagine Peel's reflections not many 
years later when he saw Stanley and Disraeli in league 
against his influence. 

From Sarah Disraeli to Mrs. Disraeli. 


I suffer much for your and dear Dis' disappointment, but 

we must not despair. After all, it is not half so bad as losing 

an election. We have, I hope, a long future before us, and 

changes may occur every day. Our Examiner has missed 

1 Deriving from the late Lord Houghton. 

2 8mythe"s article speaks, thougli in another connexion, of Stanley's 
prejudice against Disraeli in earlier years as having been ' notorious in the 
House of Commons' ; but if Stanley really intervened in 1841, it was 
obviously impossible in 1854 to make allusion to the fact in an article for a 
paper controlled by Disraeli. 


this morning, so that we do not know the latest appoint- 
ments ; but up to the latest, except Gladstone, there is not 
one single untitled or unaristocratic individual. 

For Disraeli and his wife a visit to Normandy, where 
we find them establislied in the old town of Caen, helped 
to fill the interval between the brief autumn session and 
the entrance of the new Parliament on its real labours in 
February. The new Ministers meanwhile were prepar- 
ing to grapjile with the difficult problems of tariff and 
finance bequeathed to them by their predecessors. If the 
Parliament, as Lady Montfort says in Mndymion^ was 'a 
political economy Parliament,' Peel's, as Cobden said, 
was ' peculiarly a politico-economical intellect.' ^ Peel had 
supjjorted Huskisson in his commercial reforms nearly 
twenty years before, and Robinson, who had then been 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, was now, as Ripon, in 
Huskisson's former office of President of the Board of 
Trade. As leader of the Opposition, Peel had shown all 
the wariness of an old Parliamentarian, and his hands 
were in consequence comparatively free for the task now 
before him. To his freedom there was, indeed, only one 
limitation. He could modify the Corn Laws ; but by the 
last debates of the old Parliament, by the circumstances 
of the general election, and by explicit declarations of 
his own 2 and of his followers,^ he and his Ministry were 
deeply committed to the maintenance of the principle of 
protection to agriculture. 

Peel's general plan for restoring order to public finance 
was based on the same idea as that of the Whigs — the 
reduction of duties with a view to promoting consump- 
tion, and so increasing revenue. But his plan was de- 

1 Morley's Cohden, I., p. 237. 

2 Take, for instance, his speech of August 27, 1841, immediately before 
the division that dislodged the Melbourne Ministry : ' We both acknowledge 
the principle of protection to agriculture. The first Finance Minister of 
the Crown, being asked if this measure of a fixed duty was a tax or a pro- 
tection, answered : " It is a protection." We start, then, from the same 

3 Gladstone, for example, said, in seeking re-election at Newark : ' There 
were two points on which the British farmer might rely, the first of which 
was that adequate protection would be given to him, while the second was 
that protection would be given to liim by means of the sliding scale.' 


veloped with less precipitancy and a more secure sense of 
power, and as he now had behind him the elections, which 
tlie Whigs when they produced their Budget still had 
before them, he was able to adopt the bold expedient 
which Huskisson had suggested, of an income-tax to meet 
immediate needs of revenue till remissions should have 
time to tell on consumption. He began with the Corn 
Laws. In his scheme for their reconstruction he clung 
tenaciously to the unlucky device of the sliding scale ; but 
he reduced the rates of duty, and he substituted for the 
old plan of continuous variation inversely with the price 
a system of variation by a series of leaps from one resting- 
place to another, in the hope that the merchants might 
thus have less motive for withholding corn from import 
in the expectation of higher prices, and to the injury of 
the consumer and the revenue alike. The scheme gave 
satisfaction neither to the extreme free traders nor to 
the agricultural interest, and the Duke of Buckingham, 
who was in the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal, carried his 
dissent to the point of resignation. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

[February, 1842.] 
A thunderbolt in a summer sky could not have produced 
a greater sensation than the resignation of the Duke of Bucks. 
All is confusion. I had a long conversation with him the 
other day. 'He has only one course — to be honest.' I am 
sorry to say I hear he has taken the Garter. . . . Peel seems 
to have pleased no party, but I suppose the necessity of 
thinijs will force his measure through. 


Disraeli does not appear to have been wholly in love 
himself with the plan adopted by Peel, and it is possible 
that he thought then, as he had evidently come to think 
when at the end of his life he surveyed the situation 
retrospectively in Endymion, that a moderate fixed duty 
such as the Whigs had proposed would have been the 
best working arrangement. But whatever his doubts, he 
kept them to himself. The legend that the neglect of 
his pretensions to office in 1841 drove him at once into 


opposition to Peel is so firmly established that to many 
the facts will come as a surprise. For two whole sessions 
he gave his support to Peel's Government and its prin- 
cipal measures — a support, moreover, that was not 
grudging nor even mechanical, but active and intelligent ; 
and another year was to elapse before he embarked on 
anything that could be regarded as deliberate and 
systematic opposition. Attempts were made from the 
first to lure him into rebellion, but he steadfastly resisted 
them, though on the new Corn Law, at all events, some- 
thing of the kind appears to have been expected. ' I am 
obliged,' he tells his wife, who was detained at Bradenham 
for some weeks by an illness of her mother's, ' to be very 
careful about pairing, as Mrs. Dawson, Bonham and Co. 
are full of good-natured rumours.' ' I saw Mrs. Dawson, 
he writes another day. ' She was most friendly and par- 
ticularly disagreeable.' 

To Mrs. Disraeli. 

Feb. 25. 
You cannot conceive how solitary I feel : utterly isolated. 
Before the change of Government, political party was a tie 
among men, but now it is only a tie among men who are in 
office. The supporter of administration, who is not in place 
and power himself, is a solitary animal. He has neither hope 
nor fear. 

Feb. 26. 
Last night Sir Robert Peel carried his [corn] resolutions by 
an immense majority — far beyond anticipation. Sir Richard 
Vyvyan, Mr. Blackstone, and Lord Ossulston (who is a great 
malcontent) rose, and left the house together, determined 
no more to support Peel. The general rumor was that I had 
done the same, and several men expressed their surprise, 
when they saw me in the lobby ; I believe these rumors 
have been intentionally circulated, but the fact is I have had 
a thorough understanding with Fremantle ^ throughout — or 
at least for the last week — and I am sure the Government 
themselves had, or rather have not now, the slightest doubt 
of my supporting them. However, my presence at the late 
divisions has been most politic and necessary. 

1 Sir Thomas Fremantle, 1798-1890, afterwards 1st Lord Cottesloe, at 
this time chief Government Whip. 


Disraeli in the meantime had found a subject of his 
own. In the course of his commercial studies he had 
been impressed with the inefficiency of our consular 
establishment, which was then, in the words of Peel, too 
often a retreat for such as were ' disqualified for public 
situations.' Disraeli doubtless felt impelled, after liis 
recent rebuff, to make a demonstration ; and here, he 
may have thought, was a subject which would serve, 
bristling as it was with detail, to win him credit as a 
practical man who could be solid as well as brilliant. So 
he put down a motion for the blending of the consular 
with the diplomatic body, and prepared an elaborate 

To Mrs. Disraeli. 

Feb. 21. 

I went through my whole speech this morning without a 
reference to a single paper, so completely am I master of all 
its details. It took me three hours, an awful period; but I 
fear I cannot retrench it, at least materially. The details 
are so numerous, so varied, and so rich. I am full of confidence 
as to its effect in the House, but I am very doubtful as to the 
opportunity being speedily offered. 

Feb. 22. 

You were prepared for my disappointment in not bringing 
forward my motion to-night, but the infernal debate^ drags 
its slow length along. . . . George Smytlie ^ made a most 
elaborate speech ; very Radical indeed, and unprincipled as 
his little agreeable self, but too elaborate — his manner affected 
and his tone artificial, and pronunciation too ; but still ability 
though puerile. 

Monday [March 7]. 

Yesterday Lord Claud Hamilton called on me, to ask to 
second my motion. It was just the thing I wanted, as being 
stepson to Lord Aberdeen, the Secretary of State for Foreign 
Affairs, it gives, as George Smythe says, an official character 
to the affair. ... I feel a calm confidence, and I think I 
cannot fail of making some impression. . . . 

Wynne [a prominent constituent from Shrewsbury] called 
on me this morning, and, though I was at home to no 
one, James had the sense to admit him. He had called 
previously on Tomline [the other member for Shrewsbury] 

1 On the corn resolutions. 

2 GeorgeSydney Smythe, 1818-1857, afterwards 7th Viscount Strangford. 


and asked if he were at home. The servant hesitated, finally 
took in Wynne's card, and brought out word that Mr. Tomline 
was not at home. Conceive the rage of Wynne I It is some- 
thing awful, solemnly severe and unappeasable ; the last 
visit on Mr. Tomline, he says. I heaped coals on the fire 
without appearing to do so; told Wynne that I was at home 
to no one to-day and the reason, but there was a standing 
order always in his exception; asked him to dinner, which he 
refused, as he was engaged, but very charmed ; and finally 
gave him an order for the House on Tuesday if in town. He 
left me as devoted to us as was he deadly to Tomline. I 
could not help laughing, remembering Tomline's last visit 
to me: the tables fairly turned. 

Yesterday, after a hard morning's work, I went out for a 
little air, found Maxse at our door, and walked with him for 
about an hour in the Park. He was very kind, and I hoped 
to have got some small talk for you, as he is a gossip and a 
lounger, but there is nothing stirring. Croker is one of the 
five executors of Lord Hertford, but the will is not yet 
open. . . . 

I will now give you my blessing, as well as send you my 
love deep and dear. The more we are separated the more I 
cling to you. . . . 'Tis your approbation and delight for 
which I am now labouring, and unless I had that stimulus I 
don't think I could go on. 

Wednesday [March 9]. 

The affair last night realised all my hopes; the success was 
complete and brilliant. I rose at five o'clock to one of the 
most disagreeable audiences that ever welcomed a speaker. 
Everybody seemed to affect not to be aware of my existence, 
and there was a general buzz and chatter. Nevertheless, not 
losing my head, I proceeded without hesitation for ten 
minutes, though when I recollected what I had to travel 
through, and the vast variety of detail which I had per- 
spicuously to place before the House, I more than once de- 
spaired of accomplishing my purpose. 

In about ten minutes affairs began to mend; when a quarter 
of an hour had elapsed there was generally an attentive 
a'l'lience; and from that time until near half-past seven, 
when 1 sat down, having been up about two hours and twenty 
minutes, I can say without the slightest exaggeration, that not 
only you might have heard a pin fall in the House, but there 
was not an individual, without a single exception, who did not 
listen to every sentence with the most marked interest, and 
even excitement. The moment I finished. Peel, giving 
me a cheer, got up and went to dinner upstairs. . . . Henry 


Baillie, Dicky Hodgson, and Lord John Manners/ and several 
others came in turn and sat by me, after I had sat down, to 
give me the general impression of the House, that it was not 
only, by a thousand degrees, the best speech I had ever made, 
but one of the best that was ever made. The enthusiasm of 
young Smythe extraordinary; he and several others par- 
ticularly mentioned my manner, perfectly clianged and differ- 
ent to what it used to be — ' Exactly as you talk at the Carlton 
or at your own table,' he said, ' particularly my voice, not the 
least stilted, but the elocution distinct, the manner easy, a 
little nonchalant, and always tinged with sarcasm.' 

Now for the other side. [Milner] Gibson came to me to 
say that they all agreed on their side that it was the most 
amusing speech they ever listened to, and carried them on 
completely; Tom Buncombe, that it was one of the best 
statements he ever heard, and if I had followed it up by a 
loose, indefinite resolution I might have made a very strong 
division. But what think you of the mighty Mister Cohden 
coming up to me to offer me his thanks for the great public 
service I had done, &c. ? 

I put Palmerston on his mettle. He made one of his usual 
dashing, reckless speeches, which men who have been Secre- 
taries of State can venture to do in a scrape and backed by a 
party; but there was a general feeling on all sides of the 
House that he had not succeeded in shaking the minutest 
detail of one of my facts. He spoke with great pains, and 
with as much effort as if he were answering Peel. I made a 
most happy reply to his insinuation as to my being disap- 
pointed about office, or rather his sarcastic hopes that I might 
obtain it. What I said was literally this: 'I must in the 
first place return my thanks to the noble Lord for his warm 
aspirations for my political preferment. Coming from such 
a quarter, I consider them auspicious. The noble Viscount 
is a consummate master of the subject, and if to assist my 
advancement he will only impart to me the secret of his own 
unprecedented rise, and by what means he has contrived to 
enjoy power under seven successive administrations, I shall 
at least have gained a valuable result by this discussion.' 
Graham cheered this most vehemently. 

After the debate congratulations came thick. Dudley 
Stuart embraced me at Crockford's, and declared, before 
Chesterfield and a crowd of dandies, that my speech was one 
of the most effective he had ever listened to. Even Jemmy 
Macdonald told me he heard * I had had a hell of a flare-up.' 

1 Baillie (1803-1885, afterwards Right Hon. H. J. Baillie) was member 
for Inverness, Hodgson for Berwick, and Manners (1818-1906, afterwards 
7th Duke of Rutland) Gladstone's colleague at Newark. 


I walked from the House with Henry Baillie, who told me in 
his cold, quiet way : ' Upon my soul, I am not sure it was not 
the best speech I ever heard.' All young England, the new 
members, &c., were deeply interested. . . . 

But I think what I am going to tell you is the most grati- 
fying and remarkable. Sidney Herbert just now came down 
to sit by me, and said: 'I don't know whether it is a fair 
question, but might I ask where you got that mass of extraor- 
dinary information which you gave last night ? ' I replied : 
* From study and observation and inquiry, from no particular 
source.' He observed : * I think it a most remarkable display ; 
it is thought so.' 

I am going to dine with the Baillies to-day — House of 
Commons dinner — only George Smythe, and come down 
afterwards. There are odd rumors that a section of the 
Tories will declare against Peel to-night, on the second reading 
of his [Corn] Bill. On Friday comes on the Budget — a very 
important week ; but the news from India ^ fills everyone with 

March 10. 

. . . Last night Lord Eliot said to me : ' Well, you are one 
of the few who have broken lances with Palmerston and 
rode away in triumph.' He said it would have made an 
admirable party motion a year ago, and would have thrown 
the Government into a minority. . . . 

At supper at Crockford's, H. Twiss, sitting next to me, be- 
tween his mighty mouthfuls, at length saturninely turned 
round, and said suddenly and without any preliminary obser- 
vations : ' I am not sure whether your retort on Palmerston 
in reply last night was not the completest case of having a man 
on the hip that I ever remember in Parliament.' . . . 

Now for one or two good things — genuine, for I heard them 
myself. George Beresford, coming into the House, said to 
Augustus O'Brien,- who was standing at the Bar: 'How did 
Beresford Hope speak? He's my cousin.' ' IMy dear fellow,' 
said O'Brien, 'if he were your own brother, he could not have 
spoken worse.' 

Monckton Milnes said to George Smythe, with his queer 
face of solemn deprecation and conceit, speaking of the same 
oratorical effort: 'Why don't you interfere to prevent him 
speaking, Smythe?' 'Why, I don't interfere to prevent you 
speaking, Milnes ! ' was the retort, and even Milnes' impudence 
was floored. 

1 Of the murder of Sir William Macnaghten, the British Envoy in Cabul, 
and the destruction of Elphinstone's force in the retreat to Jellalabad. 

2 Afterwards Augustus Stafford, 1809-1857. 



March 11. 
I already find myself without effort the leader of a party, 
chiefly of the youth and new members. Lord John Manners 
came to me about a motion which he wanted me to bring for- 
ward, and he would ' second it like Claud Hamilton.' Henry 
Baillie the same about Afghanistan. I find my position 

March 12. 
Letters on the consular business every day. Peel alluded 
to the subject in the House of Commons last night, and many 
suggestions as to the future motions. But at present the Budget 
engrosses all minds, and I was very fortunate in having gained 
my opportunity. The Income Tax, or rather the Property 
and Income Tax, is a thunderbolt ; but Peel can do anything 
at this moment. 

Sunday [March 13] . 

I am not particularly anxious to be in town at this moment, 
political affairs are very confused; and Vyvyan, since the 
consular speech, always 'whispering in my ear.' Yesterday 
he came with a formal proposition — viz., to oppose the further 
progress of the Corn Bill to-morrow in consequence of Peel's 
financial statement. He intends to do it himself, and begged 
me to speak — 'in the same tone, exactly the same tone as 
the other night, that's the thing. You have got the ear of 
the House.' I declined interfering, said I hated speaking, 
&c. &c., must watch events, &c. But as old Talleyrand, when 
he did not clearly see his way, always took to his bed, so I 
think it would be as well for me if, in consequence of a cause 
which, thank God, no longer exists, domestic anxiety were to 
take me into the country — rather suddenly. . . . 

I have agreed to dine at Gore House to-day. Lady B[lessing- 
ton] having asked me every day. But I dislike going there, 
D'Orsay being in high spirits, quite unchanged, but Lady B. 
very altered — silent, subdued, and broken. She told me 
another year would kill her, and complained bitterly that, 
after having fought against so much jn-ejudice, and made a 
sort of position, with her two nieces about her, and not owing 
a shilling in the world, she is perhaps to see it all shattered 
and scattered to the winds. I think it is horrid. But perhaps 
it may end better than she anticipates. 

Mo7iday [March 14]. 
Hertford's will is still the subject of endless tales. It 
appears now that by a codicil, revoking former legacies to 
them, he left £25,000 apiece to his valet and Croker. This 


is a fact. He had left his star^ of the Order of the Garter, 
in costly brilliants, with a long panegyric to Peel, as the 
saviour of his country and all that, and the legacy was after- 
wards revoked. I suppose his ghost smelt the Income Tax. . . , 
The Zichy has £150,000 because she saved Lord Hertford 
from being poisoned by her mother. . . . The new Lord cut 
off his mustachios on his accession, saying: 'There never 
was a Marquis of Hertford with mustachios.' 

March 15. 

On Thursday for certain I shall be with my beloved. . . . 
I trust this is our last separation ; indeed, I believe it, and it 
has only taught us to love each other, if possible, more and 
more. . . . 

Will you believe it ? — Dr. Bowring - has just been to ask 
me what I think of the quarantine question, and whether I 
will speak on his motion to-night and support him if I approve 
of it. I know nothing of the question, and don't mean to stay 
at the House ; but I told him, touched by his imperturbable 
good temper, that I was entirely of his opinion on the subject, 
and paid him a general compliment. 

I kept from the House [yesterday], because Vyvyan, as I 
was informed, was going to attack Peel, and oppose the pro- 
gress of the Corn Bill. He was in the House armed with 
many papers ; but the spirit did not move him. I believe 
there is to be a grand row on Friday, but I shall steal off the 
morning before, and all the better, as affairs political are very 
queer. . . . 

This morning and yesterday at breakfast I placed the 
bouquet of violets on my table (you know how fond I am of 
flowers on my breakfast-table), and fancied it was a very apt 
representative of yourself. 

Every morning I have kept a sort of diary of affairs and 
thoughts in French, which I write now with great ease and 
some elegance. 

The speech on the consular motion was largely an 
attack on Palmerston's administration during his long 
reign at the Foreign Office, and in the course of this and 
the following session Disraeli returned persistently to the 
same congenial theme. The line of inquiry on which he 
was now embarked — a study of foreign policy in its 

1 This star was presented by Sir Richard Wallace to Lord Beaconsfield 
when he received the Garter on his return from the Congress of Berlin in 

- See p. 93. Disraeli had returned to the attack in his speech on the 
consular motion. 


bearing on our foreign trade — had for him two attrac- 
tions. It provided him with opportunities for attacking 
the Whigs, and it enabled him to escape from the dull 
and unenlightening detail of economic discussion into a 
more spacious atmosphere, where his vision had wider 
range. Whatever the starting-point of debate, Disraeli 
soon contrived to rise into the region of foreign affairs. 
He deeply disliked the income-tax, but when the Bill 
came up for second reading, instead of blaming the 
Minister, he ingeniously connected the tax with the 
disasters in Afghanistan, of which all minds were full, 
and which, as all knew, were a heritage from the policy 
of the Whigs. The war on the Indian frontier had com- 
pelled the Prime Minister to take the ' bold but sagacious 
step' of introducing an account of the finances of our 
Indian Empire into the annual Budget statement. Vigor- 
ous action had been needed to avert bankruptcy in India 
and cope with great deficiencies both there and in Eng- 
land, and he believed that the income-tax, though it was 
' a tax of a most odious and inquisitorial character,' was 
absolutely necessary. He complained on this occasion 
that Parliament had never been consulted with regard 
to the war, and a couple of months later he seconded his 
friend Baillie in a motion for papers, which led to an 
animated debate.^ To avoid the appearance of hostility 
to the Government in office, Disraeli aimed his attack 
directly at Palmerston. The foreign policy of the noble 
lord 'seemed to lie in an alternation of fatal inertness 
and more terrible energy ' ; it was a ' constant transition 
from a state of collapse to one of convulsion ' ; it was ' a 
system which commenced with the neglect of our duties, 
and terminated by a violation of the rights of other 
nations.' Tlie late Ministers of the Crown had ' pro- 
claimed war without reason, and prosecuted it without 
responsibility.' He was not alarmed by a single disaster ; 
he was not afraid of our losing India through internal 
intrigue or foreign invasion ; but if ever India were lost, 

1 June 23, 1842. 


it would be lost by financial causes, by draining its re- 
sources to maintain wars such as that in which we were 
then engaged. Members had not been vigilant in the 
business of India, but perhaps, now that this war had led 
to a tax which, in the words of Bacon, came home to 
men's business and bosoms, they would cease to be in- 
different. This speech, which is remarkable for the 
knowledge and grasp it shows of the Indian situation, 
made an impression in the House, and provoked Palmer- 
ston to a reply which was, however, deft rather than con- 

When Peel unfolded ^ his plan for the simplification of 
the tariff, Disraeli reminded the House that the real 
pedigree of free trade was other than the Whigs believed, 
and that the Minister's conduct was entirely in harmony 
with the traditions of his party. If they would read and 
digest the speeches of Lord Shelburne, ' the most remark- 
able man of his age,' they would find that in the science 
of political economy they were far behind many of the 
great statesmen who flourished at the end of the previous 
century. The principles of free trade had been developed 
— and not by Whigs — fifty years before. It was Mr. 
Pitt 2 who first promulgated them in 1787 as a system of 
reciprocity, while Fox and the other famous Whigs of 
that day came forward as the champions of the old 
system of restriction. Nor had the party which originally 
brought free trade principles into notice been false to 
those principles, as he showed in greater detail in a 
speech 3 later in the session. The settlement of 1815 
was indeed an anti-commercial settlement, but Lord 
Liverpool had soon seen that it was impossible to con- 
tinue on the basis then adopted. From 1820 to 1830 

1 May 10, 1842. 

2 Disraeli was on other occasions in the habit of carrjang back the 
pedigree to Bolingbroke and the Treaty of Utrecht. If he was to begin 
with the later statesman, he might have taken as his starting-point Pitt's 
Commercial Propositions of 1785 for establishing free trade between Great 
Britain and Ireland, which were opposed by the Whig leaders, Burke, alas ! 
included, with a display of faction and unenlightenment that surpassed 
even their performance on the French commercial treaty of 1787. 

3 July 21, 1842. 


the history of this country was a history of commercial 
progress. The true principles of commerce were applied 
in Parliament, and while the home Government was 
carrying its great measures of renovation, their Foreign 
Minister was calling new markets into existence. Then 
the Whigs came into office, and from 1831 to 1841 not a 
single step was taken to advance the commercial prin- 
ciples of Pitt and Shelburne and Lord Liverpool and 
Huskisson. Nay, more, during this period our Foreign 
Minister was pursuing a system of anti-commercial di- 
plomacy. No fewer than five commercial treaties with 
European States had been lost by his misconduct, and 
our Eastern markets, which on many accounts were the 
most valuable we possessed, had been harassed and dis- 
turbed. But now that the Prime Minister had in one 
class of his measures recurred to the policy which had 
been so beneficial in the past, he hoped that he would 
apply that policy as a whole. His Corn and Customs 
Bills were the legitimate continuation of a movement 
that had been arrested, and he was certain that he also 
felt the importance of treaties of commerce with the 
great communities of Europe, and that he was deeply 
sensible of the bearing of our foreign policy on our foreign 
trade. ^ 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

House of Commons, 

April 7. 
I write to give you the earliest intelligence that the Shrews- 
bury petition is withdrawn. This great coup, almost, in the 
present state of affairs, as great as my return, was effected 
in the most accidental and happy manner by my agent, Bailey 
of Gloucester, without any interference and barely knowledge 
of either of the great parties. On his own responsibility he 
paired off Shrewsbury against Gloucester. Under circum- 
stances of extreme difficulty which must be reserved for 
narrative, I never knew a happier instance of daring energy 
and address combined. He left town on Tuesday by mail, 

1 This last speech, according to The Times, to which it gave the text for 
a series of articles on ' Foreign Policy and Foreign Trade,' ' obtained con- 
siderable notice ' ; and that not only ' for its intrinsic merits,' but because 
' it struck upon a chord to which the public mind was attuned.' 


and I was called out of the House eight o'clock yesterday 
(Wednesday), and found him. I expressed my surprise, 
perhaps my regret, that he had not departed, when, to my 
astonishment, 1 found that in the four-and-twenty hours he 
had been to Gloucester, Shrewsbury, and returned. It was 
like the story of the rise of Wolsey. 

The committees work so ill under the new system that I 
really despaired sometimes of keeping my seat, and was con- 
vinced that the Shrewsbury people would proceed. But the 
Gloucester Whigs prevailed upon them to sacrifice themselves 
for the extrication of their neighbours. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

Saturday morning [April 2S]. 

The horses are at the door, and we are going with the living 
Horace Walpole to visit for the last time Strawberry Hill. 
Last night, after going to the City, I fired a most effective 
shot in the debate^ — cheered by Peel and all the Ministers, 
loudly by Hardinge, who said to me in the lobby : ' You made 
an admirable speech, Di.' I observed I was sensible of his 
support, &c. Replied, taking my arm : ' Yon know what I 
said to you years ago — you would become "one of the clearest 
and most forcible speakers in the House." ' 

Sir J. Graham came up to me, and said : * Never was a party 
pinned more effectively ; the pin was pushed in to the middle, 
and to the very head.' Just at this moment, when he was 
unbuttoning his heart, a thick-headed Alderman forced himself 
upon us and spoilt all.^ 


Aug. 11. 
My dear Sa., 

This delicious weather makes one sigh for country air; 
but we are still prisoners. 

Last night Peel made the most effective speech by very 
far I ever heard from him. He crushed Palmerston,^ who 
on the last night, like an excited player, lost on one dashing 
stake all his hard-won winnings of the last month. I was 
in the leash to speak, but the effect of Peel's speech was so 
overwhelming that all the Whigs (Vernon Smith, Charley 
Buller, Hawes, &c.) took refuge in silence, and Cobden, 
seizing the opportunity, attempted to an impatient and excited 
House to foist off his intended speech of the night before, and 
turned the whole course of the debate, or rather burked it, 
being followed by Hume, Ewart, and Co. in an American 
corn vein. 

^ On the income-tax. ^ Brit. Mus., Addit. MSS. 

3 Palmerston, on a motion for papers, had made a general attack on the 
policy of the Government. 


Palmerstoii looked overwhelmed, but was infinitely mortified 
by the turn of the debate, which rendered his position still 
more ludicrous — most ludicrous, however, when Philip 
Howard, the butt of the House, and who pours forth endless 
7iia)series, rose to vindicate ' his noble friend,' which he did 
with agonising detail, till Peel went away, the House nearly 
emptied, and Palmerston, bound to remain, refrained even 
from replying, for which he had prepared. 

By-the-by he quoted me very courteously at his com- 
mencement, and, indeed, ' went off ' with me, which produced 
an effect in the House. 

Fremantle asked me, after Peel's speech, to reply to any man 
of note who rose on the opposite benches. 

I sigh for news from Bradenham. Your vegetable cargoes 
are most welcome. 

A thousand loves, 


The session of 1843, like that of the previous year, was 
marked, by recurrent motions on commercial depression 
and distress in the country ; and in his speeches on these 
motions, which were of course only a pretext for attacks 
on the Corn Laws, Disraeli's line of argument was always 
the same. Commercial depression was a complex phe- 
nomenon. Its origin could be found in no single cause, 
and it was ridiculous to pretend to cure it by any single 
or sudden remedy. Certainly no measures, however 
liberal, of ours would induce foreign Powers to ameliorate 
at once their present commercial policy. ' A species of 
Berlin decrees, more stringent even than those of Napoleon, 
were silently but surely spreading over the Continent 
against us ; and it required far more than the mere repeal 
of the Corn Laws to effect a reciprocal liberalisation of 
European commercial relations. ' ^ Of one ^ of these speeches 
a not over-friendly witness, Lord Morley, has testified that 
'it is remarkable to this day for its large and comprehensive 
survey of the whole field of our foreign commerce, and for its 
discernment of the channels in which it would expand.' ^ 
This particular speech, hardly more remarkable than others 
in their kind, was made in the debate on a motion of 

1 July 1, 1842, from The Times report. « Feb. 14, 1843. 

8 Life of Cobden, II., p. 336. 


Lord Howick's which is memorable for the dramatic 
scene between Peel and Cobden. Disraeli had spent the 
winter in Paris, and it was his first deliverance after his 
return. Following his usual line of argument, he pro- 
tested against a policy that would apply a single remedy 
to our commerce in all its branches without regard to 
varying circumstances. He thought our markets could 
fairly be divided under three general heads — our European 
markets, the markets of the East, and the markets of the 
New World. Our European markets must be regulated 
by commercial treaties. He believed, for instance, there 
was a majority in the present French Chamber friendly 
to a treaty of commerce, and it was in the power of the 
House of Commons whenever it chose to come to a right 
understanding with the people of France. If this were 
done, the session need not end without the conclusion of 
such a treaty. Having dealt with other treaties of com- 
merce which had been the subject of negotiations, though 
they had not been carried out, he came to the East. 
There we addressed ourselves to a very ancient state of 
society, and our trading intercourse must be conducted 
on the ancient principles of commerce. If "we acted in 
Europe by negotiation, we could only penetrate the East 
by enterprise ; and though no immediate or vast impulse 
to our trade could be expected, we had a right to look 
for an increase in the three great Eastern markets — in 
the Levant, in India, and in China. In the New World, 
again, we encountered a third set of conditions, and com- 
merce with that region, by the nature of the case, must 
be an affair of speculation — ' rapid profits, shattering 
losses, unnatural expansion, paralyzing collapse.' — It was 
not our tariff, not our Corn Laws, that induced the 
present stagnation in our New World trade ; but its 
causes were transitory, and there and elsewhere he 
believed the breeze of prosperity in its own good time 
would come. He thought it wisest to wait for it — indeed, 
he saw no other remedy. 


I would give an ample trial of the measures of the Govern- 
ment introduced last year. I supported those measures, not 
from auy blind submission to the Minister who introdiiced 
them, but because I approve of the principle on which the 
commercial system of the right hon. gentleman is founded. 
The i)rinciple of his tariff is a fair protection to native industry 
— a principle, in my opinion, perfectly consistent with a large 
and liberal commercial intercourse. As regards the present 
Corn Law we know as yet but little. I am not prepared to 
stand or fall by the details of that measure, nor am I, for one, 
surprised that the right hon. gentleman declines to do so. 
With respect to that law, I will reserve to myself the most 
unbounded licence. I will not rest my character for political 
consistency on a fixed duty or a sliding scale. But 1 will 
support that system which, to use the expression of the noble 
lord [John Russell], maintains the preponderance of the 
landed interest. I believe that preponderance to be essential 
to the welfare of the country ; I attribute to that preponder- 
ance the stability of our institutions ; I uphold that preponder- 
ance, not for the advantage of a class, but for the benefit of 
the nation. ... I will venture to remind the House of the 
words of a great prince, appropriate to the occasion, for they 
were not only the words of a great prince, but also of a great 
merchant — I mean that Doge of Venice who, looking out from 
the windows of his Adriatic palace on the commerce of the 
world anchored in the lagoons beneath, exclaimed : * This 
Venice without terra Jirma is an eagle with one wing.' I wish 
to see our national prosperity upheld alike by a skilful agricul- 
ture and by an extended commerce.^ 

The reform of the tariff in the previous year had been 
intended to prepare the way for the policy of reciprocal 
arrangements with the other states of Europe which Dis- 
raeli advocated so zealously ; but this policy made little 
progress, and on April 25 the impatient free traders 
called for a further remission of duties without waiting 
for the commercial treaties which were to provide the 
opportunity. Disraeli in the debate tried to defend a 
Ministry whose principles were now in a state of rapid 
flux, and which, consequently, no longer found it easy to 
defend itself. He quoted ' the work of Dr. List,' ^ then 
little known in England, but now canonised as the Bible 

1 Hansard, Feb. 14, 1843. 

2 The National System of Political Economy. 


of modern protection. He reminded the free traders 
that the Governments of Europe had often other objects 
than the wealth of nations in view in their commercial 
arrangements ; that political considerations were always 
present to their minds ; and that they sometimes main- 
tained manufactures at a loss ' as the elements of future 
strength.' Until those Governments had accepted 'our 
high notions of political economy ' we were certain to 
have difficulties. The motion meant 'that they should fight 
against hostile tariffs with free imports,' and he believed 
that would be a policy of the most disastrous kind. Free 
trade, which had originally meant a large and liberal 
intercourse, in contradistinction to the old colonial system, 
now appeared to mean, in the mouths of gentlemen 
opposite, an absence of all restrictions; but surely there 
was some analogy between civil and commercial freedom, 
and a man was not the less free from being subject to 
certain regulations. Was it not the natural course to 
adopt the happy medium always followed by practical 
men — the principle of reciprocity? The free traders, 
of whose school the total neglect of circumstances was a 
peculiar characteristic, ignored the fact that powerful 
interests had grown up in other countries as a consequence 
of our commercial system, to enforce and advocate our 
views ; and in a commercial negotiation the Minister of 
England had elements of strength denied to any other 
country. If we acted with decision we must attain our 
end, and he thought we could not do better than adhere 
to a method which, even if it failed to-day, might always 
succeed to-morrow. 

In this and other speeches Disraeli chivalrously came 
to the rescue of his ' right hon. friend, the Vice-President 
of the Board of Trade ' — that is to say, Gladstone, whose 
reputation among the Conservatives on the question of 
protection had, to use his own expression, already ' oozed 
away.' 1 Both in Parliament and in the country confidence 

1 Morley's Life of Gladstone, I., p. 262. 


in the Ministry was beginning to be shaken,^ and Disraeli 
thought it necessary to go down to Shrewsbury and 
justify to his constituents the support he had given them. 
This task he accomplished in a speech tliat is full of 
interest, and is as clear an exposition, both of his own 
point of view in the controversies of the hour, and of 
enlightened Tory sentiment throughout the party struggle 
which has lasted ever since, as any he ever delivered. 
He had voted, he said, for the Corn Bill and the revision 
of the tariff because he believed them to be measures 
that were wise and expedient. The principle of these 
measures was ' protection to native industry, avowed, 
acknowledged, and only limited because the Minister 
desired that that protection should be practical . . . 
such as should compensate for enormous taxation, and 
should not allow the energies of the country to merge 
and moulder into a spirit of monopoly.' He was not 
himself an enemy to free trade according to his idea of 
free trade. He had never supported either prohibitions 
or monopoly, or made native industry the stalking-horse 
by which to shield abuses. ' But my idea of free trade 
is this : that you cannot have free trade unless the 
person you deal with is as liberal as yourself. If I saw 
a prize-fighter encountering a galley-slave in irons, I 
should consider the combat equally as fair as to make 
England fight hostile tariffs with free imports.' He 
believed that Sir Robert Peel had adopted opinions 
which were just and right, and that he was anxious to 
support the native industry of the country ; but every 
Government was entitled, as long as it adhered to prin- 
ciple, to an ample allowance for circumstances, and Sir 
Robert Peel, though he would be their Minister, was not 
the man to be their tool. What he had done so far had 
been for the public advantage. 

You should not part with him for what he has done ; 
neither should you part with him because you think he will 

1 In Shrewsbury itself the leading Conservative paper was openly 
denouncing them. 


do a certain act which I believe that he will not. If I find 
the Government seceding really from their pledges and 
opinions — if I find them, for instance, throwing over that 
landed interest that brought them into power — my vote will 
be recorded against them. I do not come down to Shrewsbury 
to make a holiday speech and say this. I have said this at 
Westminster, sitting at the back of Sir Robert Peel, alone, and 
without flinching, and I say it again here.^ 

I never will commit myself on this great question to petty 
economical details ; I will not pledge myself to miserable 
questions of 6d. in 7s. 6d. or 8s. of duties about corn; I do 
not care whether your corn sells for this sum or that, or 
whether it is under a sliding scale or a fixed duty ; but what I 
want, and what I wish to secure, and what, as far as my 
energies go, I will secure, is the preponderance of the landed 
interest. Gentlemen, when I talk of the preponderance of 
the landed interest, do not for a moment suppose that I mean 
merely the preponderance of ' squires of high degree.' My 
thought wanders farther than a lordly tower or a baronial 
hall. I am looking in that phrase ... to the population of 
our innumerable villages, to the crowds in our rural towns : 
I mean that estate of the poor which, in my oj^inion, has been 
already dangerously tampered with ; I mean the great estate 
of the Church, which has before this time secured our liberty, 
and may, for aught I know, still secure our civilization ; I 
mean also by the landed interest that great judicial fabric, 
that great building up of our laws and manners, which is, in 
fact, the ancient polity of the realm. 

They had all heard how Mr. Cobden, who was a very 
eminent person, had spoken in a very memorable speech 
of the barbarous relics of the feudal system. If there 
were any relics of the feudal system remaining, he re- 
gretted that there were not more. What was the funda- 
mental principle of that system? That the tenure of all 
property should be the performance of its duties — ' the 
noblest principle that was ever conceived by sage or ever 
practised by patriot.' 

When I hear a political economist, or an Anti-Corn-Law 
Leaguer, or some conceited Liberal reviewer, come forward 
and tell us, as a grand discovery of modern science . . . that 
* Property has its duties as well as its rights,' ^ my answer is 

1 This passage, which, from its bearing on Disraeli's subsequent action, 
is of great biographical interest, is omitted in Mr. Kebbel's reprint. 

2 This famous aphorism had been promulgated in Ireland by the great 
administrator, Thomas Drummond, five years before. 


that that is but a feeble plagiarism of the very principle of 
that feudal system which you are always reviling. Let me 
next tell those gentlemen who are so fond of telling us that 
property has its duties as well as its rights, that labour also 
has its rights as well as its duties ; and when I see masses of 
property raised in this country which do not recognize that 
principle; . . . when I hear of all this misery and all this 
suffering ; when I know that evidence exists in our Parliament 
of a state of demoralisation in the once happy population of 
this land which is not equalled in the most barbarous countries 
— I cannot help suspecting that this has arisen because 
property has been permitted to be created and held without 
the performance of its duties. 

If the Anti-Corn-Law League succeeded, how long 
would the present law of inheritance in land survive the 
whole change of their agricultural policy ? And if they 
recurred to the Continental principle of parcelling out 
estates, bow long could they maintain the political system 
of the country ? Some would say, ' Let it go ' ; but his 
answer to that would be, ' If it goes it is a revolution, a 
great, a destructive revolution ; and it is not my taste 
to live in an age of destructive revolution.' England had 
been made by the preponderance of the landed interest. 
We should never have been able to conquer the greatest 
military genius the world had ever seen, and to hurl him 
from his throne, if we had not had a territorial aristocracy 
to give stability to our constitution. Without that pre- 
ponderance of the landowner he did not see why Great 
Britain, probably very contented and very prosperous, 
should have been a greater Power than Denmark or 
Sweden ; and he, for one, would not be the citizen of a 
third-class State if he could be the citizen of a first-class 
Empire. Nor did they, who had all the memories of an 
historical past, want, he was sure, ' to be turned into a 
sort of spinning-jenny, machine kind of nation.' 

He knew, indeed, there was a deterioration of society 
in the present day which was not to be seen only in the 
lower classes of the country ; that the nobility and gentry 
of the land, who had vindicated our rights, defended our 
liberties, and founded our greatest colonies, were deficient 


in those high qualities which they had always hitherto 
exhibited. But he had still some confidence in the 
national character of Englishmen. This country had 
experienced great vicissitudes in the past, and we had 
even had revolutions on a very great scale. The King, 
the Church, and the constitution, had all been swept 
away ; yet the nation eventually had returned to itself. 

Shall I tell you how it was that the nation returned to it- 
self, and Old England after the deluge was seen rising above 
the waters ? This was the reason — because during all that 
fearful revolution you never changed the tenure of your 
landed property. That, I think, gentlemen, proves my case ; 
and if we have baffled a wit like Oliver Cromwell, let us not 
be staggered even before Mr. Cobden! The acres remained; 
the estates remained. The generations changed : the Puritan 
father died, and the Cavalier son came into his place, and, 
backed by that power and influence, the nation reverted to 
the ancient principles of the realm. And this, gentlemen, is 
the reason why you have seen an outcry raised against your 
Corn Laws. Your Corn Laws are merely the outwork of a great 
system fixed and established upon your territorial property, 
and the only object the Leaguers have in making themselves 
masters of the outwork is that they may easily overcome the 

Over and over again in the course of this speech we 
find Disraeli declaring his personal belief that, notwith- 
standing the new Corn Law and the revision of the tariff, 
measures only intended for the correction of abuses, Peel 
remained faithful to the principle of protection. In this 
belief, as we now know, Disraeli was mistaken. Four 
days after the speech was delivered, Peel told Gladstone, 
whom he was taking into his Cabinet as President of the 
Board of Trade, 'that in future he questioned whether 
he could undertake the defence of the Corn Laws on 
principle ' ; and, in his record of the conversation made 
on the day it took place, the new President intimates that 
Peel's 'words were addressed to a sympathising hearer. '^ 
It is not a mere coincidence that the Shrewsbury speech 

1 This speech is reported at length in the Shropshire Conservative for 
May 13, 1843. 

2 Morley's Gladstone, I., p. 260. 


was Disraeli's last attempt at a whole-hearted defence of 
Peel's administration. He had promised his constituents 
that if he found the Government throwing the landed 
interest over his vote would be given against them, and 
before the month was out he had occasion to fulfil his 
pledge. The Government had committed themselves to 
a scheme for reducing to a nominal amount the duty on 
corn from Canada, and under the conditions then pre- 
vailing a capital result would be the indirect admission 
of corn from the United States at the low fixed duty of 
4s. the quarter. At this aspect of the measure the agri- 
cultural interest, already suspicious and uneasy, took 
serious alarm ; though Stanley, who, as Colonial Secre- 
tary, was immediately responsible, and who, as the future 
was to show, was a sincere believer in protection, tried 
hard to convince them that the effects in practice would 
be small. When he next saw his constituents, Disraeli, 
after reminding them of the pledge he had given at the 
time of his previous visit, explained the circumstances in 
which it had come up for fulfilment. 

Upon my arrival in London, the first information I received 
on entering the lobby of the House of Commons was that the 
Government had determined to force through the Canadian 
Corn Bill. ... I had not the moral courage nor the immoral 
audacity to say one thing to my constituents, and within 
24 hours ^ vote diametrically opposite ... At that time 
there was a most powerful party arrayed against the Gov- 
ernment, and how easy it would have been for me to have 
made a violent and damaging speech against them, and have 
influenced the passions of those friends who were then in 
opposition ! Such a course of action on my part would have 
told with double effect, because I had defended the Ministry 
on their two previous measures ; but I had no wish to do so, 
and I only recorded my silent suffrage against them.^ 

The Government carried their Bill, but in the teeth of 
opposition from many of their supporters and at no small 
cost to their popularity and prestige. 

1 The interval was short, but the ' 24 hours ' is a piece of Disraelian 
rhetoric, and is not to be taken literally. 

2 Speech at Shrewsbury, August 28, 1844. 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

Grosvenor Gate, 

May 12. 
We left Shrewsbury after breakfast, and arrived at home for 
dinner. For the provinces 1 think my speech was a great 
effect. Nothing could equal the enthusiasm of my auditors 
or be stronger than my position there. . . . We did not 
arrive at Shrewsbury till ten at night, by which we lost a 
triumphant entrance, the streets having been filled with the 
expectation of our immediate arrival from six to eight o'clock ; 
guns on the English bridge ready to be fired and frighten our 
horses, and deputations at the column. After the dinner we 
went to the Bachelors' Ball, which was very gay and well 
attended. Mary Anne, who never looked so well (in white 
with a dark Avreath of velvet flowers twined with diamonds), 
was the grand lady of the evening, and led out to supper by 
the Lord Mayor. The next day we went to the races ; saw 
Retriever win the Tankerdlle — an excellent race — and shook 
hands with a great many of our friends. Lord Newport ^ was 
our travelling companion up to town, and very agreeable ; a 
shrewd, tall, fair, unaffected, very young man. I was at the 
House last night and received many compliments about my 
speech and Shrewsbury campaign. I spoke at Shrewsbury, 
they tell me, an hour and twenty minutes, but it did not seem 
long. M. A. was in the gallery, and got even more cheering 
than I did. . . . Tell my mother we feasted on her chickens. 
Her slippers were much admired at Shrewsbury. 

1 Afterwards 3rd Earl of Bradford, 1819-1898. 



A Winter in Paris 


' This,' said Lady Montfort one day to Endymion, ' is 
a political economy Parliament, both sides alike thinking 
of the price of corn and all that. Finance and commerce 
are everybody's subjects, and are most convenient to 
make speeches about for men who cannot speak French 
and who have had no education. Real politics are the 
possession and distribution of power. I want to see you 
give your mind to foreign affairs. . . . But foreign affairs 
are not to be mastered by mere reading. Bookworms do 
not make Chancellors of State. You must become ac- 
quainted with the great actors in the great scene. There 
is nothing like personal knowledge of the individuals who 
control the high affairs. . . . What I think you ought 
to do is to take advantage of this interval before the 
meeting of Parliament, and go to Paris. Paris is now the 
capital of diplomacy.' ^ Disraeli himself profited by this 
sage advice, and shortly after the prorogation of 1842 we 
find him and his wife established in the Rue de Rivoli. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Hotel de l'Europe, Rue Rivoli, 

Oct. 14. 

. . . We have for the last ten days or SO had the most beautiful 

weather here, which will, they say, last during the month: 

our rooms, looking to the gardens of the Tuileries, so warm 

1 Endymion, ch. 71. 


that we sit with the windows open, the glass 70 in the shade. 
Mary Anne has entirely recovered, and I think I never saw 
her looking so well. We have found agreeable acquaintance 
in the de Gramniont family. The Duchess Count D'Orsay's 
sister, and like him in petticoats. She receives three times 
a week, and the few people in Paris may be found in her little 
house in the Faubourg St. Honore, crammed with pretty 
furniture, old cabinets, and pictures of the de Grammonts. 
The Due as well as his spouse extremely good-looking, and 
brother of Lady Tankerville, who we also find here and who 
is very kind to us. She is staying with Marshal Sebastian!, 
who married her sister, recently dead. The Due, when Due 
de Guiche, was an officer in our 10th Hussars, in the days of 
Lord Worcester, Pembroke, and George Wombwell. One of 
his three sons, the Vicomte de Grammont, is with them, and 
their two daughters, on the point of coming out, and the 
first considered very pretty, and celebrated in the novels of 
Eugene Sue, the only litterateur admitted into fashionable 
society here; the rest are savages. We see these Miles. 
de Grammont in the evening, where they are trying their 
wings, previous to a formal debut, and kiss their mother at 
ten o'clock and go to bed. 

Of English here are the Adrian Hopes, who arrived from 
Normandy yesterday ; Henry Hope, who has been here as long 
as ourselves ; George Smythe, Cochrane,^ Lord Pembroke, 
Antony de Rothschilds, Mrs. Montefiore. Antony succeeds 
the Duke of Orleans -in his patronage of the turf , and gives 
costly cups to the course, which his horses always win. 
Through Goldsmith^ I have made the acquaintance of Mau- 
guin,* whom I see much of and like, and Odilon-Barrot, the 
leader of the Opposition, called on me yesterday. Thiers 
is in the country, as well as almost every other leading man, 
but they will soon cluster in. He frequents the salon of the 
Duchess, and seems in favor with the Carlists ; here also I 
shall find Berryer.* Goldsmith gave us a grand banquet and 
good company — the Swedish and Spanish Ministers, the 
U. S. for Foreign Affairs, Mauguin, and other diplomats. 
They all talked at the same time, shouted, and gesticulated, 
the noise Neapolitan, and the salle d, manger being very small, 
and there being fourteen bougies alight on the table, independent 
of several side-lamps, the effect was overwhelming. Mary 

1 Alexander Baillie-Cochrane, 1816-1890, afterwards 1st Lord Lamington. 

2 Louis Philippe's eldest son, who had been killed in a carriage accident 
in the previous July. 

3 The father of Lady Lyndhurst. 

* A well-known lawyer and politician. 
^ A leading Legitimist politician. 

148 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

Anne and myself have taken advantage of the fine weather 
to visit several places which I had never seen — Pere la Chaise 
and all that — and yesterday we made with Smythe a charming 
pilgrimage to the Luxembourg. . . . Smythe and Cochrane 
dined with us yesterday. We have a cvisinih-e bouryeoise, very 
pretty. Mary Anne begs you not to have any stays made 
till she comes home, as she can give you valuable information 
thereon. . . . We meet at the de Grammonts, Princes de 
Beaufremont, Counts de Chambellan, Duchesses de Marmier. 
What names ! But where are the territories ? There are 
only 100 men in France who have ten thousand per ann. 
Henry Hope and De Rothschild could buy them all. 

Nov. 9. 
Our English friends have nearly all departed, and the 
serious illness of the Due de Grammont has put a stop to the 
pleasant reunions at their house. We have dined with Lord 
and Lady Cowley : a very pleasant dinner. . . . The am- 
bassador is very like the Duke, but much taller. Lady Cowley 
has the most polished yet natural manners, very well-informed 
and rather clever. Paris is very empty of notables, though 
some few are stealing in. The season will be late and sombre, 
owing to the death of the Prince Royal, and the non-conse- 
quent autumn meeting of the Chambers, which will not 
now reassemble till the middle of January. We have passed 
an evening at Madame Baudrand's, the wife of the general 
and aide-de-camp of the King, and friend. She is an English- 
woman, and young enough to be his daughter. We also met 
her friend, Miss Tennyson d'Eyncourt, who remembered 
dining with me seven or eight years ago at Bulwer's. Many 
Frenchmen have English wives — Madame Lamartine, Odilon- 
Barrot, and De Tocqueville. 

Nov. 22. 

My deak Sa, 

... I have seen a good many persons since I wrote last. I 
think I was then on the eve of paying a visit to Thiers, whom 
I found in a very handsome house, and in his cabinet, or 
sanctum, a long gallery room, full of works of art; at the 
end his desks and tables covered with materials, maps and 
books and papers for the life of Napoleon, or rather the history 
of the Consulate and Empire. I stayed with him two hours : 
a very little man, but well proportioned, not dwarfish, with 
a face full of intelligence and an eye full of fire. Madame 
Thiers receiving every evening, Mary Anne and myself paid 
our respects to her a few nights after. We met there Mignet,^ 
Count Walewski, the son of Napoleon, whom we knew before, 

1 A well-known historian. 


and others. Thiers paid M. A. the greatest courtesy and 
attended her to her carriage. Madame Thiers pretty : her 
mother, Madame Dome, there. I believe the house, which 
is very handsome, belongs to Monsieur Dome, the father-in- 

Next day to the Sorbonne, where I paid a visit to the 
celebrated Cousin, late Minister of Instruction and now 
Dean of the University : great power of elocution ; he delivered 
me a lecture which lasted an hour and a half, very perspicuous 
and precise, dogmatic but not a pedant. I have seen also 
the great Dupin,^ who is rich and lives in a very handsome 
hotel ; his brother Charles — a pair of zanies ; and I also made 
a visit to the prince of journalists, M. Bertin de Vaux, an 
ox who lives in a fat pasture manured by others. He dwells 
in a fine hotel, and lives like a noble ; indeed, few have such 
a rich estate as the Journal des Dehats. 

Yesterday, however, was my most distinguished visit ; 
like a skilful general, I kept my great gun for the last. On 
Sunday night I received a letter from the royal aide-de-camp 
in service to inform me that the King would receive me in a 
private audience at St. Cloud on the morrow at half-past 
eleven. I was with his Majesty nearly two hours alone; 
the conversation solely political, but of the most unreserved 
and interesting kind. He was frank, courteous, and kind. 
In taking my leave, which of course I could not do until he 
arose, he said he hoped my visit to St. Cloud had made as 
favorable an impression on me as mine had on him ; that he 
hoped to see me in the evenings at the palace, when he 
should have the pleasure of presenting me to the Queen. 
There is no court of any kind at this moment, and therefore 
M. A. cannot be presented, and we hear that the poor Queen 
is still dreadfully depressed. After my audience had con- 
cluded. General Baudrand, whom I rejoined in the ante- 
chamber, took me over the palace. But I cannot now 
attempt to give you the faintest idea of its splendor and 
beauty. The pages, courtiers, equerries were all in the 
deepest mourning. I went in my usual morning costume, 
I ought to tell you that while, previous to the audience, I was 
sitting in the chamber of the aide-de-camp, one of the courtiers 
brought me from the King, by his Majesty's express order, 
a despatch just received, and. which he had not himself read, 
containing the news of the conquest of CabuP and the release 

1 President of the Chamber from 1832 to 1840. 

2 ' You will be surprised to hear,' wrote his sister from Bradenham, in 
reply to this letter, ' that it was our first account of the conquest of Cabul, 
our papers having miscarried, as they always do when there is anything of 
importance ; so that we owed as much as you did to the courteousness of 
his most Christian Majesty.' 

150 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

of the prisoners. His Majesty said afterwards he was happy 
that our meetiug took place on a day which had brought 
such good news for England. 

Be very particular and minute in your information about 
my father's eyes. Scarcely a day passes without some itupiiry 
being made after him here, especially by the hommes-de-lettreH. 
His works are universally known here, and Buchon,^ Sainte- 
Beuve, l^ertin de Vaux, Philarete Chasles,^ &c., are familiar 
with every page he has written. 

Ever affectionately yours, 


Disraeli had sousrlit his audience throuo^h General 
Baudrand, with whom he had become intimate, in order 
'to lay before his Majesty some facts respecting the 
state of parties and the disposition of power in our Parlia- 
ment, which if properly appreciated might exercise an 
important and immediate influence on the lasting policy 
of the two countries.' Palmerston, who in 1830 had 
begun his rule at the Foreign Office by an attitude so 
friendly to the new monarchy in France as to provoke 
Disraeli's ire in his G-allomania tract, had, when his rule 
came to an end in 1841, left a France profoundly irritated 
by his policy in the Levant ; but Aberdeen and Guizot, 
the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, were now 
endeavouring to restore friendlier relations, and Disraeli, 
who had travelled far since the days of the G-allomania^ 
was anxious to make his contribution to this desii*able 
result. Through General Baudrand he submitted to the 
King a long memorandum,^ in which, with a courtly 
compliment to ' the genius of a great Prince, eminently 
fertile in resource and strengthened by an unprecedented 
experience of life,' he suggested a course of action in the 
English Parliament and Press likely, in the writer's 
opinion, to lead to the speedy restoration of 'a genuine 
and hearty alliance ' between the two countries. Louis 
Philippe, who well knew that an understanding with 
England was almost essential to the existence of his 

1 Historical scholar. 

2 A literary critic like Sainte-Beuve, though of less celebrity. 
8 For the full text see Appendix. 


throne and dynasty, was impressed by the memorandum ; 
and whatever may have been the political results of the 
audience that followed, the impression was maintained. 
Thenceforward the King was prodigal of marks of his 
favour, and he continued to regard Disraeli as a friend 
to the hapless end of his own career. 

Dec. 2, 1842. 
My dear Sa, 

... I don't think when I wrote to you last that I had made 
a visit to Augustiu Thierry, or rather a pilgrimage. He is 
only forty-five, but paralysed to his centre, and quite blind; 
but he entirely retains his faculties, and even with the aid of 
amanuenses continues his composition, and even researches. 
He sent many messages to my father, whose name is very 
familiar with all the literati of Paris. T. is married, and his 
wife very worthy and devoted, but she takes the words out 
of his mouth a little too much. After this I called for M. A., 
and made a visit together to Madame Thiers (the evening of 
course, when all visits are paid in Paris), and then I made 
my debut at the Comtesse de Castellane, a charming woman 
of the highest fashion, and who smiles on M. Mole — a grand 
seigneur, and once Prime Minister. I was presented to her 
by Henry Bulwer, and have since presented M. A. to her. 

On Tuesday I dined with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, 
his first dinner for the season, and given only to the great 
personages ; even the Cabinet Ministers only appeared at the 
soiree. The guests were the English Ambassador, the Aus- 
trian Ambassador (Count Apponyi), the Prussian Minister, 
the Duke Decazes, Grand Referendary of Prance, Count de 
Chabot, Baron Alexander Humboldt, General Sebastiani, 
Governor of Paris, Baron Regnier, the Chancellor of France, 
Rothschild and myself, and Colonel Fox. Guizot, his mother, 
very old, his sister-in-law, who heads his establishment, and 
his private secretary, made up the party. All was sump- 
tuous, servants in rich liveries and guests with every ribbon 
of the rainbow. Sat between Sebastiani and Rothschild, 
whom I met for the first time, and whom I found a happy 
mixture of the French dandy and the orange-boy. He 
spoke to me without ceremony, with ' I believe you know 
my nephew ? ' On Wednesday, after making a preliminary 
visit to Madame Castellane to present Mary Anne, we went 
to a grand rout at the British Embassy, where we saw every 
diplomatic character in Paris, including the fat iSTuucio of 
the Pope, and the Greek Minister, Odelli, in native costume, 
many of the high French and shoals of the low English. 

152 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

Returning home, I found a note from General Baudrand, 
sa}' ing that at St. Cloud in the morning, the King had said : 
* Mr. Disraeli has never been at St. Cloud in the evening. I 
wish to present him to the Queen.' Accordingly last night 
I was obliged to go off, and arrived at St. Cloud about nine. 
The palace, situate on a hill and brilliantly illuminated, had a 
line etfect. 1 passed for the first time in my life an evening 
in the domesticity of a Court. When I arrived the Royal 
family were still in the apartments of the Duchess of Orleans: 
a few courtiers and one or two visitors, my friend Count 
Arnim, the Prussian Minister, loitering in the saloons, and 
three ladies sitting at a table working. In about a quarter 
of an hour the Court was announced, and his Majesty entered 
with the Queen, followed by Madame Adelaide, the Princesse 
Clementine, the Duke and Duchess of Nemours, and some 
attendants. We formed a distant circle. The Queen and the 
ladies, all m deep mourning, seated themselves around a large 
round table, working. Ices were handed, and the King com- 
menced speaking a few words to each. 

He was extremely gracious when he observed me, and, after 
saying a few words expressing his pleasure that I had arrived, 
called to a courtier to present me to the Queen. Her Majesty 
asked me six questions, to which I replied. She is tall and 
sad, with white hair ; a dignified and graceful phantom. Then 
I was presented to Madame Adelaide, who is lively like her 
brother. In the course of the evening the King conversed 
with me a considerable time. I am a favorite with him, and 
doubtless owe to his good word my grand dinner with M. 
Guizot, who told me that the King had observed to him, 
'he had had a most interesting conversation with me.' I hope 
to hear good news of all, to whom a thousand loves. M. A. 
is very well indeed, and sends many kind loves and messages. 


Dee. 21. 
Many thanks for your ' happy returns ' received this morning. 
. . . We have attended a meeting of the Academic Franqaise for 
the reception of a new member, the celebrated Baron Pasquier, 
Chancellor of France, who made a long eulogium on Frays- 
sinous, the late Bishop of Hermopolis, and was replied to by 
the president of the day, M. Mignet, in a speech of considerable 
ability. The grand hall of the institute was crowded, all 
the genius and fashion of Paris present. My ticket was given 
me by Comte Mole, Mary Anne's by M. Guizot. Afterwards 
I dined at a grand party at the Luxembourg, with the grand 
Referendary of the Chamber of Peers, the celebrated Due 
Decazes, and sat next to his Duchess, a daughter of St.-Aulaire, 


the French Ambassador at our Court. In the evening there 
was a very choice reception at ^Madame de Castellane's to 
celebrate the election of Pasquier ; the hero of the day was 
there himself, and many celebrities. I was introduced among 
others to Barante, now a Baron and an Ambassador and 
President of the Society of French History, of which I have 
been elected a member. . . . 

On Saturday last I received a command to dine at the 
Tuileries on the following Monday at six o'clock. I was 
ushered, through a suite of about twenty illuminated rooms, 
to the chamber of reception, where I formed one of the circle, 
and where I found seated the Queen of Sardinia, at present a 
guest, and her ladies. Soon after the Court entered and went 
round the grand circle. I was the only stranger, though 
there were sixty guests. Dinner was immediately announced, 
the King leading out the Queen of Sardinia, and there were 
so many ladies that an Italian princess, duchess, or countess 
fell to my share. We dined in the gallery of Diana, one of 
the chefs-d'oeuvre of Louis XYI., and one of the most splendid 
apartments perhaps in the world. ... In the evening the 
King personally showed the Tuileries to the Queen of Sardinia, 
and the first lady in waiting, the ]Marquise de Dolomieu, 
invited me, and so did the King, to join the party, o)ihj eight. 
It is rare to make the tour of a palace with a King for the 
cicerone. In the evening there was a reception of a few 
individuals, but I should have withdrawn had not the King 
addressed me and maintained a conversation with me of great 
length. He walked into an adjoining room, and motioned 
me to seat myself on the same sofa. While we conversed the 
chamberlain occasionally entered and announced guests. 
* S. A. le Prince de Ligne,' the new Ambassador of Belgium. 
'J'arrive,' responded his Majesty very impatiently, but he 
never moved. At last even Majesty was obliged to move, 
but he signified his wish that I should attend the palace in 
the evenings. . . . 

You must understand that I am the only stranger who has 
been received at Court. It causes a great sensation here. 
There is no Court at present, on account of the death of 
the Duke of Orleans ; and the Ailesburys, Stanhopes, and 
Russian princes cannot obtain a reception. The King speaks 
of me to many with great kudos. 

It was not only his first taste of the joys of a Court that 
Disraeli found exhilarating. Social artist as he was, he 
delighted in the brilliant society of Paris, in its freedom 
from snobbishness, its homage to intellect, its graceful 

154 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

ease. In Coningshy, which was written in the course of 
the following year, we can see some of the results of his 
present observations. 

Nothing strikes nie more in this brilliant city than the 
tone of its society, so much higher than our own. What an 
absence of petty personalities ! How much conversation, 
and how little gossip ! Yet nowhere is there less pedantry. 
Here all women are as agreeable as is the remarkable privilege 
in London of some half-dozen. Men, too, and great men, 
develop their minds. A great man in England, on the con- 
trary, is generally the dullest dog in company ! ^ 

Or, again: 

What is more consummate than the manner in which a 
French lady receives her guests ? She unites graceful repose 
and unaffected dignity with the most amiable regard for 
others. She sees everyone ; she speaks to everyone ; she sees 
them at the right moment ; she says the right thing ; it is 
utterly impossible to detect any difference in the position of 
her guests by the spirit in which she welcomes them. There 
is, indeed, throughout every circle of Parisian society, from 
the chdteau to the cabaret, a sincere homage to intellect ; and 
this without any maudlin sentiment. None sooner than the 
Parisians can draw the line between factitious notoriety and 
honest fame ; or sooner distinguish between the counterfeit 
celebrity and the standard reputation. In England we too 
often alternate between a supercilious neglect of genius and a 
rhapsodical pursuit of quacks.^ 

Or take the description of the Duchesse de G[ra- 
monjt's receptions, where 

It seemed that every woman was pretty, every man a wit. 
Sure you were to find yourself surrounded by celebrities, and 
men were welcomed there if they were clever before they were 
famous, which showed it was a house that regarded intellect, 
and did not seek merely to gratify its vanity by being sur- 
rounded by the distinguished.^ 

In some notes written by Disraeli about twenty years 
later there are sundry reminiscences of this visit to Paris, 
and another which he paid in the winter of 1845: 

1 Coningsby, Bk. V. ch. 8. ^ Bk. V. ch. 7. 

3 Bk. VI. ch. 1. 


When I was in Paris in 1842, the Court was slowly recovering 
from the death of the Duke of Orleans. The King, however, 
was full of confidence in himself and in his dynasty. He dwelt 
on the resemblance of the position of William III. of England 
and himself. He had this additional advantage — children. 

I had my first audience with King Louis Philippe at St. 
Cloud at the end of the autumn. The audience was long and 
not formal. It was the only time in my experience in 
which the King did not engross the conversation, and 
few foreigners have enjoyed a greater intimacy with that 
sovereign than myself. I have been in the habit of remaining 
after the evening receptions at the Tuileries, and sitting with 
him in his cabinet until a very late hour, he himself dis- 
missing me by a private way, as all the royal household had 
retired. In these conversations, or rather communications, 
he seemed to conceal from me nothing. Sometimes he 
would speak only of his early life, his strange adventures, 
escapes, hardships, and necessities. The last time I was 
alone with him in 1846 he had indulged in this vein, and in 
reply to an observation which I had made I remember well 
his saying: 'Ah, Mr. Disraeli, mine has been a life of great 
vicissitude ! ' He would always speak English with me. He 
had a complete command of our language, even of its slang 
(argot). Perhaps it might be said that his English was a 
little American. 

In 1842 the King was entirely master — his own chief Minister 
in fact. He was fond of affairs, and jealous of the inter- 
ference or aspirations of his sons. The King had a conviction 
that he thoroughly understood Frenchmen, and knew how 
to manage them. He despised his people. More than once, 
when I had made a suggestion, he would remark : ' Ah, I 
have to deal with a very different people from you.' And 
then a peculiar grimace of contempt and dislike. ' The way 
to manage these people is to give them their head, and then 
know when to pull them up.' 

In the King's time there never was a dinner given at the 
Tuileries — no matter how stately; I have seen it in the 
Gallery of Diana with a hundred guests — without a huge 
smoking ham being placed, at a certain time, before the 
King. Upon this he operated like a conjurer. The rapidity 
and precision with which he carved it was a marvellous 
feat : the slices were vast, but wafer-thin. It was his great 
delight to carve this ham, and indeed it was a wonderful 
performance. He told me one day that he had learnt the 
trick from a waiter at Bucklersbury, where he used to dine 
once at an eating-house for 9d. per head. 

One day he called out to an honest Englishman that he 

156 A AVINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

was going to send him a slice of ham, and the honest English- 
man — some consul, if I recollect right, who had been kind to 
tlie King in America in the days of his adversity — not used to 
Courts replied that he would rather not take any. The King 
drew up and said: *I did not ask you whether yon would 
take any ; I said I would send you some.' A little trait, but 
characteristic of the dash of the grand seigneur, which I often 
observed latent in L. Philippe, though from his peculiar 
temperament and his adventurous life of strange vicissitude 
he was peculiarly deticient in dignity. . . . 

General Baudrand, Governor of the Comte de Paris, and 
entirely devoted to the House of Orleans, a man who had 
risen from the ranks, I believe, but a natural nobleman, a 
man of the highest moral tone as well as social breeding, 
doing every justice to the King, to whom he was attached, 
often concluded his confidential observations by saying: 
* What the King wants is dignity^ — ' Ce que le roi manque, 
c'est la dignite.' Baudrand, without stiffness, for he was 
genial, had as great a share of dignity as I ever met. 

King Louis Philippe sent Baudrand on his accession to the 
Duke of Wellington to explain everything and obtain an 
immediate recognition. Baudrand's account of his interview 
with the Duke very interesting. Wellington was not so 
grieved about the ' three glorious days ' as some suppose. 
The elder branch, in their anxiety to become popular, were 
going very wrong, and were about to attack the Ehine. The 
Duke accepted the election of the House of Orleans as a pledge 
for constitutional and moderate government. Baudrand was 
exactly the envoy the Duke would appreciate — a distin- 
guished soldier, with a simplicity like his own. 

King Louis Philippe vindicated to me one day his refusal 
in 1830 of the [office of] Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom 
during the minority of the Due of Bordeaux (Henri V.). He 
said he would have preferred leaving France. He said if the 
Due had died during the regency nothing would have pre- 
vented [him from] being looked upon as a criminal. ' The 
Due of Bordeaux would never have had a bellyache without 
my being denounced throughout the world as a poisoner.' 

At Paris in 1842-43, Guizot Minister, but not supposed to 
be very strong. His strength increased with the strength of 
Peel, and jNIadame Lieven consolidated the alliance between 
Guizot and Lord Aberdeen. His rivals were Thiers, who had 
been Minister and was leader of the Opposition, and Comte 
Mole, descendant of the Grande Barbe, and inheriting not 
merely his name, but the honors and estates of the family; 
for Mole had been a minor in the days of the emigration, 
remained in France under wise guardians, and preserved the 


whole of his estates, whicli during his lifetime the Code 
Napoleon, almost as bad as the emigration, could not diminish. 
Mole was a grand seigneur, of the highest breeding; courtly, 
finished, dignified if necessary, but easy and simple. Excel- 
lent talents, very general information, a complete political 
culture, and not a mean orator when under pressure. He 
was supposed to lean to the Russian Alliance, though I believe 
this was only a newspaper theory. I was on terms of great 
intimacy with him, and he spoke freely to me of his views as 
regards England. He was short in stature, like his rivals 
Guizot and Thiers. His countenance was dark, with regular 
features of the Jewish cast, and he was supposed to inherit 
his physiognomy from a famous Hebrew heiress, who married 
into his family. He lived in the Hotel Mole in good state, 
and entertained as became his rank — the only personage in 
Paris who gave great dinners except the Ministers and high 
functionaries and Rothschilds. 

Affairs were changed in 1846. Guizot was rooted in power, 
and had persuaded the King that he was the Richelieu of a 
Louis XIV. Thiers, who had a considerable following in 
1842-43, the remains of his position in 1839 of first Minister, 
was greatly sunk, had reverted to literature, and was very 
disaffected. The Hotel Mole had been pulled down, and 
the Comte lived in a new one in the modish quarter of F. St. 
Honore. His chance seemed quite to have vanished. 

Guizot's manner had no charm ; it was indeed repulsive. 
Not exactly pedantic, but professional, hard, dogmatic, 
arrogant. His countenance very fine ; a brow of beaming 
intellect, and a wondrous flashing eye. His general counte- 
nance often reminded me of Roubiliac's bust of Pope. Thiers 
looked and chattered like a little journalist ; a monkey, but 
wonderfully sharp and self-complacent and clever. 

Thiers said to me one morning, as we were walking together 
in the Champs Elysees : ' As for French politics, they are 
simple. I am forty-seven, M, Guizot is fifty-seven, and Comte 
Mole is sixty-seven.' ^ 

To Sarah Disraeli. 


Jan. 16, 1843. 

The uncertainty of our movements and the great pressure 

of business and pleasure have daily made me delay writing. 

Our life goes on the same, only more bustling. I have been 

a great deal at Court ; had the honor of drinking tea with 

1 As a statement of fact this remark could not, either in 1842 or 1845, 
have been literally accurate, but literal accuracy in such matters was nevei 
the foible of either Thiers or his reporter. 

158 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

the Queen and Madame Adelaide alone, and one evening 
was sent for to the King's cabinet. I am in personal as well 
as political favor there. We had tickets from the hotisehold 
to witness the opening of the Chambers and to hear the 
King's speech, which was extremely interesting. The splen- 
did staff of a hundred general officers and the marshals 
of France, in their gorgeous uniforms, seated on one bench, 
very fine. We have been also to the Chamber of Peers, 
worthy of the Roman Senate ; to the Luxembourg, to a 
concert given by the Duchess Decazes, and we were the only 
English there. 

One of our most amusing parties was a strictly French 
dinner, to which we were invited by the Odilon-Barrots. A 
capital dinner, and surrounded by names long familiar to me — 
Lamartine, Tocqueville, Gustave de Beaumont ^ ; the first 
tall and distinguished in appearance, all intelligent. In the 
evening a soiree, in which all the Opposition figured. By-the- 
by, the Turkish Ambassador dined at Barrot's; I happened 
to praise some dish which I remembered eating in Turkey ; 
and on Sunday his cook brought one as an offering to Mary 
Anne. Reschid Pacha is his name, a great celebrity. I went 
by invitation one evening to talk Eastern politics and smoke 
a chibouque, which he offered me, brilliant with diamonds. 
He told me then that since we last met he had been recalled, 
* a simple rappel.' He knew not whether he was to be dis- 
graced, or to be made Prime Minister ; but I suspect the latter 
will be his destiny. 

Another day we went to an assembly at the Hotel de 
Ville, given by the wife of the Prefect of the Seine — costly 
beyond description, in the style of the Renaissance ; and 
after it, where do you think we went at half-past twelve 
at night, M. and Madame Adolphe Barrot, ourselves, and 
Odilon ? To the masqued ball at the Opera. They had an 
admirable box, the scene indescribable. Between three and 
four thousand devils dancing and masquerading beyond 
fancy. A thorough carnival ; the salle of the Grand Opera 
formed into one immense Belshazzar's hall with a hundred 
streaming lustres. The grand galoppe, five hundred figures 
whirling like a witches' sabbath, truly infernal. The con- 
trast, too, between the bright fantastic scene below and tlie 
boxes filled with ladies in black dominoes and masks, very 
striking, and made the scene altogether Eblisian. Fancy me 
walking about in such a dissolute devilry, with Odilon- 
Barrot of all men in the world, who, though an excellent 
fellow, is as severe as a viexix parlementaire of the time of the 

^De Tocqueville's colleague in his memorable mission to America in 1B31. 


Fronde. I have omitted much more than I have told; but 
you must manage to pay your visit to town immediately after 
our arrival. 

Saturday [Feb. 4]. 

I can give you no news from this ; all at present uncertain 
and unsatisfactory. Peel feeble and frigid, I think, and general 

Our latter days at Paris were some of our most brilliant : 
the principal features, the ball at the English Embassy ; 
1,000 folks and orange-trees springing from the supper-table ; 
my farewell audience with his Majesty; a grand dinner at 
Mole's ^ ; I sat between Humboldt and Tocqueville, and was 
surrounded with celebrities — Mignet, Victor Hugo, Cousin, 
&c. But above all spectacles was the ball at Baron Solomon 
de Rothschild's — an hotel in decoration surpassing all the 
palaces of Munich ; a greater retinue of servants and liveries 
more gorgeous than the Tuileries, and pineapples plentiful as 

The taste of this unrivalled palace is equal to the splendor 
and richness of its decorations. The company all the elite of 
Paris. You must obtain from M. A. when you see her an 
account of this unrivalled fete. 

I saw Hahnemann at Paris, very hale and active, and eighty- 
eight ! 

The influence of his stay in Paris and of his conversa- 
tions with Louis Philippe is clearly visible in Disraeli's 
conduct in the new session of Parliament. Not only, as 
we have seen, did he urge the Government to conclude, if 
possible, a commercial treaty with France : he returned 
with fresh zest to his attacks on the Palmerston system 
in foreign affairs, and supported Peel and Aberdeen in 
their resolution to pursue a less provocative policy. ' I 
have at last,' he writes to his sister when the session was 
a month old, ' made a great speech at a late hour, in a 
full house, and sat down amid general cheering.' The 

1 •! dined at Oomte Mold's.' is the reminiscence of the sixties, 'and 
sate next to Alexander Humboldt at dinner. He was then a very old man, 
though he lived ten [really sixteen] years more. But he had none of the 
infirmities of age, being vivacious and both communicative and sympa- 
thising. I am ashamed to recall so little when the effect was so pleasing. 
Victor Husro sate opposite to me ; a handsome man, not then more than 
forty, and looking younger.' 

160 A WINTER IN PARIS [chap, v 

subject was the Afghan War, the occasion a motion by 
Roebuck for a select committee of inquiry ; and Dis- 
raeli's speech ^ in its general tone was a curious anticipa- 
tion of speeches to be made against himself a generation 
later. Before the trouble began we had, he argued, a 
perfect boundary ; but anticipating, as we thought, a 
movement by Russia, we had invaded Afghanistan, and 
so courted disaster. Russia, he admitted, was menacing, 
but only by virtue of her geographical position. Her 
policy was not offensive. Our late Foreign Minister had 
been the real aggressor, sending secret agents to the 
shores of tlie Black Sea to intrigue against Russia, who 
naturally had replied by sending similar agents into 
Central Asia. This speech he followed up by voting, as 
often before, in a minority mainly Radical, against both 
the front benches ; but when, only a week later, the 
Opposition forces were mobilised officially for an attack 
on Lord Ellenborough, the Indian Governor-General, who 
had brought discredit on a policy that seems in essence 
to have been statesman-like, by his theatrical proclama- 
tion on the recovery of the gates of Somnath, he voted 
with the Government. Before the end of the month he 
was helping them again on a question of foreign policy. 
Palmerston made an attack on the treaty which Lord 
Ashburton had just negotiated in Washington for the 
settlement of the Maine boundary and other outstanding 
differences between Great Britain and the United States, 
and Disraeli defended it in a speech ^ in which he showed 
more knowledge of the facts of a very intricate question 
than Palmerston, or even Peel, who had the Foreign 
Office to guide him.^ 

By Disraeli's friends in Paris, where Palmerston was 
detested, these speeches, of course, were read with no 
httle satisfaction. 

1 March 1, 1843. 

2 March 22, 1843. 

3 So I am assured by an authority who has made a special study of the 


From General Baudrand. 


1 Avril. 

J'ai Tu sans etonnement, mais avec une veritable satis- 
faction, la decision avec laquelle vous avez aborde la lutte 
avec lord Palmerston. Sortir vainqueur du combat centre 
un athlete aussi redoutable est un glorieux triomphe parle- 
mentaire. Get avantage ne pent manquer d'agrandir votre 
influence et fortifier votre credit parnii vos amis politiques. 
Je vous en fais mon sincere compliment, et je suis charge de 
vous en faire un autre, non moins sincere que le mien, de la 
part d'un personnage, dont I'approbation ne pent manquer 
de vous flatter et de vous donner une vive satisfaction. Le 
succes de votre attaque contre la politique hostile et agressive 
de lord Palmerston, et I'appui que vous avez donne aux inten- 
tions pacifiques et eclairees et conformes aux veritables interets 
de I'Angleterre de I'homme recommendable main tenant place 
a la tete de votre gouvernement, justifient la confiance que 
le roi a montree dans la loyaute de vos sentiments et la fermete 
de vos convictions. 



Young England 


On the Tory side in the Parliament of 1841 there was 
a little group of young men who had been educated 
together at Eton and Cambridge, and who were united 
not only by the memory of their school and college 
friendship, but by a common stock of ideas on questions 
of Church and state. Their leading spirit was George 
Smythe,! whom we have already encountered, ' a man,' 
as Disraeli described him long after his death, ' of 
brilliant gifts, of dazzling wit, infinite culture, and 
fascinating manners ; ' ^ though from lack of serious pur- 
pose he was to disappoint his friends, and, in the words in 
which one ^ of them summed up his career, to prove ' a 
splendid failure.' Smythe, as is well known, was the 
original of the hero in Coningshy ; but the figure there 
presented is less true to life than a portrait in Endymion, 
where he reappears as Waldershare. 

Waldershare was one of those vivid and brilliant organisa- 
tions which exercise a peculiarly attractive influence on youth. 
He had been the hero of the debating ckib at Cambridge, 
and many believed in consequence that he must become 
Prime Minister. He was witty and fanciful, and, though 
capricious and bad-tempered, could flatter and caress. At 
Cambridge he had introduced the new Oxford heresy. . . . 
Waldershare prayed and fasted, and swore by Laud and 
Strafford. He took, however, a more eminent degree at 

1 See p. 126. 2 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 

8 Lord Lyttelton. 



Paris than at his original Alma Mater, and becoming passion- 
ately addicted to French literature, his views respecting both 
Church and state become modified — at least, in private. 
His entrance into English society had been highly successful, 
and as he had a due share of vanity, and was by no means 
free from worldliness, he had enjoyed and pursued his 
triumphs. But his versatile nature, which required not only 
constant, but novel excitement, became palled even with 
the society of duchesses. . . . Waldershare was profligate, 
but sentimental ; unprincipled, but romantic ; the child of 
whim, and the slave of an imagination so freakish and de- 
ceptive that it was always impossible to foretell his course. 
He was alike capable of sacrificing all his feelings to worldly 
considerations, or of forfeiting the world for a visionary 

' My morbid, keenly analytic, introspective, Jean- 
Jacques-like temper ' is a phrase in a letter he wrote to 
Disraeli in the last year of his short life ; and again, ' I 
once heard that you had said of me "that I was the 
only man who had never bored you." ' 

Chief among the youths who were Smythe's chosen 
companions, and who felt the spell of his brilliant mind 
and fascinating personality, was Lord John Manners, 
second son of the Duke of Rutland — a man inferior to 
Smythe in intellectual gifts, but of a loyalty, purity, 
and kindliness of nature, that amounted almost to genius. 
He appears as Lord Henry Sydney in Coningshy and 
Tancred, and some of the charm of the original character 
is caught in the portrait. Another member of the coterie 
who had found his way into the House of Commons was 
Alexander Baillie Cochrane, a young Scottish laird who 
appears in Coningshy as Buckhurst, ' the fiery and 
generous Buckhurst.' 

It is not easy now to discriminate between the ideas 
which the little group had brought from Cambridge and 
those which they acquired later when they came under 
the influence of Disraeli's riper mind. Like most of the 
generous youth of the nineteenth century, they were in 
the first place romantics — in eager sympathy with the 

^ Endymion, ch. 22. 

164 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

protest against a utilitarian age to which romanticism 
was committed in all its manifestations. From the fore- 
most spirits of the time, Newman, Carlyle, and the others, 
who with their several voices were bearing similar 
testimony, they had learnt to deplore the excessive 
worship of mere wealth and machinery that prevailed io 
the neglect of all the higher interests of man. Nurtured 
politically in the romantic school of Scott, they were of 
course Tories from the first, and their Toryism never lost 
a certain Jacobite flavour. As in the case of Scott 
himself, acceptance of the reigning family did not prevent 
them from cherishing Stuart traditions ; and one of the 
cardinal articles of their political faith was that monarchy, 
as Smythe put it, was a principle rather than an instru- 
ment, one of their primary aims the restoration of 
dignity and influence to the Throne. On his very first 
appearance as an active politician, Smythe had found an 
opportunity of proclaiming these opinions with dramatic 
effect. He came forward as a candidate for a vacant 
seat at Canterbury shortly before the dissolution of 1841, 
and at a time when the Tories were at the height of 
their irritation over the repeated postponement of their 
hopes of office since the Bedchamber incident two years 
before. Attributing the happier fortunes of their rivals, 
the Whigs, to the favour of the Palace, heated Tory 
partisans were displaying their resentment openly, or 
at most under the cover of a barely decent cloak of 
loyalty ; but the boy fresh from Cambridge had the 
courage to reprove their folly and set them the right 
example. He embodied in his first speech a glowing 
eulogy of the young Queen, and so taking the wind out 
of the sails of his opponents won the election. 

By a sure instinct the young Cambridge men had 
turned their backs on the degenerate Toryism of privilege 
and immobility, and sought their inspiration in the 
enlightened principles and practice of the younger Pitt 
and Canning. In undergraduate days they had seemed 
to see in Peel the heir to the traditions of these their 

George Smythe, Viscount Straxgford 
From a picture by R. Buckner at Hughenden 

1843-1844] THEIK STOCK OF IDEAS 165 

favourite statesmen, and had watched with enthusiasm 
the steady growth of his influence. But Peel was a 
practical politician with no romantic tendencies, and the 
views of his young admirers were not to be bounded by 
the Tam worth manifesto. They desired for the Church 
a position of greater independence than the Erastian 
spirit of the eighteenth century had been willing to 
sanction, or than Peel himself, we may surmise, would 
have been disposed to concede. Like all true romantics, 
they had an antipathy to the middle class, which was 
Peel's political idol ; they dreaded its growing influence, 
and hoped to provide a counterpoise by reawaking the 
sense of duty in the nobility and gentry, and restoring 
them to their rightful place as leaders and protectors of 
the people. With the people at large their sympathy 
was real and active. They had that faith in the lower 
orders which the Tory party had lost, and the courage 
to believe that it might be possible to redeem them from 
the misery and serfdom into which they had fallen. 
Their minds were fertile in ideas, some of them too 
picturesque, perhaps, to be practical, but all of them 
noble and disinterested, for bringing back joy to the 
sombre and monotonous lives of the labouring poor, and 
renewing the harmony between classes that had been 
one of the characteristics of the ' jMerrie England ' of 
the past. The paternity of these ideas is to be traced 
especially to Manners : 

An indefinite yet strong sympathy with the peasantry of 
the realm had been one of the characteristic sensibilities of 
Lord Henry [Sydney] at Eton. Yet a schoolboy, he had 
busied himself with their pastimes and the details of their 
cottage economy. As he advanced in life the horizon of his 
views expanded with his intelligence and his experience ; and 
... on the very threshold of his career, he devoted his time 
and thought, labour and life, to one vast and noble purpose, 
the elevation of the condition of the great body of the people.^ 

Disraeli had known Smythe before they were brought 
together in Parliament, and through Smythe in due 

1 Coningshy, Bk. IX. ch. 1. 

166 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

course he came to know the others. Between him and 
the little group there appears from the first to have been 
a mutual attraction. Disraeli was now nearing forty ; 
but, as we see in his novels, an instinctive love of 
youth was one of his marked characteristics, and it 
became more rather than less marked as his own years 
went by. He could sympathise with the ardour and 
enthusiasm of the young, admire their generous impulses 
and tolerate their foibles ; and he was altogether free 
from that insidious form of envy which often causes 
older men, even though they be themselves quite un- 
conscious of the feeling, to watch with a certain annoy- 
ance the progress of the rising generation. Early in the 
session of 1842 Smythe and his friends began to rally 
round him. ' I already find myself without effort the 
leader of a party chiefly of the youth and new members,' 
he wrote on one occasion, as we have seen, to his wife. 
For ten years he had been preaching the political truth 
that was in him to an inattentive public and an indifferent 
House of Commons, and had only succeeded in adding 
to his reputation of political adventurer the reputation 
of political visionary, which was still more damaging. 
Now at last he had found an audience whose minds were 
prepared and who listened to him gladly. More than a 
century earlier his hero Bolingbroke had written to one 
of 'the Boys' who were then arrayed against Walpole: 
' I expect little from the principal actors which tread 
the stage at present : I turn my eyes from the generation 
that is going off to the generation that is coming on.' 
Disraeli, who liked to think of himself as the inheritor 
of Bolingbroke's mission, turned, doubtless, to the young 
Cambridge men in much the same spirit. 

Presently he or Smythe conceived the idea of a closer 
association than was implied in mere friendship without 
formal ties. It happened that Smythe and Cochrane 
were in Paris in the autumn of 1842, and there, as we 
saw, they dined with Disraeli one evening in October. 
A letter written by Smythe a week later from London, 

1843-1844] DISRAELI AND THE GROUP 167 

and addressed, according to his habit, to ' Disraeli the 
Younger, M.P., '^ sets forth the sequel. 

From the Hon. George Smythe. 

Oct. 20, 1842. 
Dear Diz, 

I have fulfilled your instructions and written to John 
Manners and H. Baillie.^ The first I have told that we are 
to sit together and vote as the majority shall decide, and 
that any overture involving office ought to be communicated 
to the esoteric council of ourselves. To the Celt I have been 
more guarded and reserved, having only proposed that we 
should sit together in the hope that association might engender 
party. Have you attended to my suggestion and seen much 
of Cochrane ? It cost me three hours' walking over the Place 
Vendome after your dinner to reconcile him anew to our plan. 
He was all abroad — angry, jealous because you had talked 
to me more than to him. He said you did not appreciate 
him, that you had known me longer, but that him you did not 
understand. . . . 

Pray lay me at the little feet of Madame, and believe me, 
dear Diz, 

Yours affectionately, 

G. Sydney Smythe. 

Disraeli's immediate design is made sufficiently clear 
by the memorandum which he submitted to the King 
of the French. 3 In the Ministerial majority of ninety 
there were already, as he explained, between forty and 
fifty agricultural malcontents : ' It is obvious, therefore, 
that another section of Conservative members full of 
youth and energy, and constant in their seats, must exer- 
cise an irresistible control over the tone of the Minister. 
Sympathising in general with his domestic policy, they 
may dictate the character of his foreign, especially if 
they appeal to a conviction which, at the bottom of 
Sir R. Peel's heart, responds to their own.' Such a 
party, he added, could easily be found ; in fact, ' a party 
of the youth of England, influenced by the noblest views 

1 On the ground, as he explained, that ' one does not write ' ' Shake- 
speare, Esq." ' 

2 Baiilie was a man of Disraeli's own age, who had recently married a 
relative of Smythe's. 

8 See Appendix. 

168 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

and partaking in nothing of a parliamentary intrigue,' 
■was at the moment only waiting for a leader. This 
appears, however, to have been an unduly sanguine 
view. While Disraeli was writing in Paris, Smythe was 
reporting from London the outcome of his first efforts, 
Henry Baillie 'is afraid the paucity of our numbers 
would provoke the same ridicule now proper to Vyvyan.' 
Manners, from another Scotsman, ' gets this for answer : 
" Should you be able to concoct any scheme for the 
conduct in Parliament of the thirty or forty members 
you mention, it might prove of essential service." The 
thirty or forty members he mentions ! It must be John 
Falstaff not John Manners who wrote to him ; but clear 
it is that the two Scots dread our proximity.' Dis- 
raeli had been counting on aid from Tlie Times, where, 
though his friend Barnes was now dead, and had been 
succeeded by Delane in the editorial chair, the proprietor, 
John Walter, who was in the present Parliament, was 
expected to be friendly. Hostility to the new Poor 
Law was still a bond of sympathy between him and 
Disraeli, and his eldest son and heir, John Walter the 
third, who was now assisting him in the management of 
the paper, had been a member of the Smythe and Man- 
ners set at Eton ; but in spite of these advantages Smythe 
foresaw difficulties. 

As a matter of fact, no party, numbering few or many, 
bound by formal pledges such as Smythe had suggested 
to Manners, and voting consistently together, seems ever 
to have been formed ; but in the course of the session 
of 1843 the little group of friends, Smythe, Manners, 
and Cochrane, succeeded in winning recognition as a 
definite coterie, and came to be known in the House by 
the name of Young England. Whether this name ^ was 
a heritage from Cambridge days, or, as one of ^ Disraeli's 

1 We have seen (p. 129) Disraeli using it early in the Peel Parliament as 
a general description of the new members on the Tory side of the House. 
Monckton Milnes ajjpears (Life, I., p. 239) to have invented it at an earlier 
date as a title for some clique or movement of his own ; but no connexion 
is traceable between this and the later usage. 

' \t Bingley, Oct. 11, 1844. 


speeches would seem to imply, was given at first in 
derision, and afterwards adopted by the coterie itself, is 
not quite clear. Smythe had once suggested, with 
characteristic wit and flippancy, that the new party 
they were projecting should be called the ' Diz-Union.' 
Smythe, indeed, from the first appears to have meant 
mischief — probably as much from a freakish love of 
mischief as with any serious purpose — and there is 
nothing to indicate that he was encouraged by Disraeli 
in any designs he may have harboured of hostility to 
the Government. The enthusiasm which the three 
friends had once felt for Peel as an enlightened Tory 
leader had not long survived their entry into Parliament, 
and daily experience of the Minister's repellent manners, 
ponderous commonplaces in debate, and opportunist 
policy; but Cochrane has left it on record that, because 
' they were not supposed to adopt a factious line,' the 
members of Young England sat, not below the gangway, 
but immediately behind the jVIinisterial front bench. ^ 
Here, as we know, Disraeli also had his place ; and he 
was clearly the guiding spirit of the movement from the 
first, though he seems to have remained ostensibly aloof 
till the three friends by their own efforts had won a 
certain recognition. 

Faith in the genius of Torjdsm ; a conviction of the 
possibility of restoring it to vigour by a recurrence to its 
historic traditions, and a reconstruction of the party on 
a popular basis ; a desire to maintain and strengthen 
the influence of the upper orders, combined with a readi- 
ness to trust the masses of the people and a genuine 
interest in their well-being ; above all, dislike of the 
Whigs, and of the middle-class Liberalism in which 
Whiggery was merging — these things Disraeli and his 
younger friends had in common. It was, naturally, the 
riper man who gave shape and definition to the vague 
ideas and aspirations of the boys fresh from Cambridge ; 
but if he taught them a great deal, they also taught him 
1 Lord Lamington's In the Days of the Dandies, p. 174. 

170 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

something. When Disraeli was a youth, romanticism 
had been flowing in the revolutionary channel prepared 
for it by Byron ; it was now flowing strongly in the 
channel of reaction. That memorable revolt against the 
domination of liberalism in politics and religion, which 
had issued from Oxford early in the thirties, and taken 
thence its name, had soon won a footing in the sister Uni- 
versity. One of the earliest workers in this mission-field 
was Frederick Faber, and among the friends whom he was 
in the habit of visiting at Cambridge were the under- 
graduates Smythe and Manners. ^ He is said to have 
made their acquaintance while they were on a reading 
tour in the Lake country ; and he, at all events, it was 
who brought them under the sway of the ideas that were 
now becoming so potent in the Church. ' Waldershare 
prayed and fasted and swore by Laud and Strafford.' 
If with Smythe the religious exercises were only a passing 
affectation, the influence of Laud and Strafford over him 
and his companions was in other respects enduring. 
The Oxford movement gave a seventeenth-century colour 
to their political ideals. They had already carried their 
political researches into the preceding generation,and found 
in Pitt and Canning the model Tory statesmen ; Disraeli 
had travelled farther, and drawn inspiration from the age 
and writings of Bolingbroke ; but now the young Cam- 
bridge men boldly went behind the glorious Revolution 
sacred to the Whigs, and sought the fountain-head of 
Toryism in the reign of Charles L In the matter of the 
Church the Oxford movement completed their emancipa- 
tion from the thraldom of Erastian ideas ; in the matter 
of the Crown it transmuted their sentimental Jacobitism 
into a reasoned political theory and a serious political 
purpose ; and working through them it produced parallel 
effects in the mind of Disraeli. If he never wholly 
sympathised with their views respecting the Church, he 
speedily assimilated what was novel in their teaching 
with regard to the monarchy. 

1 Life of Father Faber, p. 7. Faber appears in Sybil as Aubrey St. Lys. 


In the Vindication, as we saw,^ he had accepted the 
Revolution as wholesome and necessary, and had begun 
at a subsequent date his attempt to reconstruct our po- 
litical history on a plan of his own, in sharp opposition 
to the dominant Whig theory ; in Si/bil we shall find a 
new point of view, and not only the Revolution, but even 
the Reformation, treated with scant respect. The change 
is probably to be ascribed in no small degree to the 
influence of Smythe and Manners and their tractarian 
ideas, as also is the change of judgment on the Bed- 
chamber affair which has been noted as taking place 
between the time of that crisis and the writing of Con- 
ingshy. In his earlier speeches and in the Vindication^ 
Disraeli had shown a clear perception of the part the 
Sovereign had played, and might usefully play again, 
as the protector of the people from oligarchic ambition ; 
and he had even borrowed the comparison frequent in 
earlier writers between the shackled monarchs of the 
Revolution and the doges of Venice ; but it was only 
now that he began to appraise at their full worth the 
possibilities of the throne as a democratic institution, 
to see that it was an imperative duty to guard it from 
the encroachments of the jealous middle classes, and to 
dream of an eventual restoration of its prestige. It is 
not fanciful to believe that through the indirect agency 
of Faber and Young England the Oxford movement 
helped to shape the policy of Queen Victoria and her 
favourite Prime Minister a generation later. 

' To change back the oligarchy into a generous aris- 
tocracy round a real throne ; to infuse life and vigor into 
the Church, as the trainer of the nation . . . ; to establish 
a commercial code on the principles successfully negoti- 
ated by Lord Bolingbroke at Utrecht, and which, though 
baffled at the time by a Whig Parliament, were sub- 
sequently and triumphantly vindicated by his political 
pupil and heir, Mr. Pitt ; to govern Ireland according to 
the policy of Charles I., and not of Oliver Cromwell; to 

1 Vol. I., p. 316. 

172 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

emancipate the political constituency of 1832 from its 
sectarian bondage and contracted sympathies ; to elevate 
the physical as well as the moral condition of the people, 
by establishing that labour required regulation as much 
as property ; and all this rather by the use of ancient 
forms and the restoration of the past than by political 
revolutions founded on abstract ideas ' — there, con- 
veniently set forth in a retrospective survey,^ and with 
very little colouring from the experience of a later time, 
is the task, as conceived by Disraeli and Young England, 
that lay before the Tory party. We shall find their 
conception of the Tory ideal set forth at greater length 
in Coningshy and Sybils but this may stand for the present 
as an adequate summary of their political aims when 
the process of mutual education was complete. 

Across St. George's Channel the movement, which 
came to be known by the name of Young Ireland, had 
now begun its career, and, appropriately enough, it was 
in an Irish debate that Young England first succeeded 
in arresting attention. Ireland was again in the political 
foreground, and to govern her ' according to the policy 
of Charles I., and not of Oliver Cromwell,' was one 
of the cardinal maxims of Young England politics. 
O'Connell's agitation for the repeal of the Union had 
slumbered during the years when he was maintaining 
the Whigs in office, and had seemed to receive its death- 
blow when his followers were reduced to a handful in 
the General Election of 1841 ; but the problem of Irish 
government was very far from being solved, and after 
a year of profound peace the agitation was renewed with 
fresh spirit and enthusiasm. That movement of con- 
scious effort after national unity and independence, the 
results of which were to be so memorable in European 
history, was just beginning to gather force, and the agi- 
tation in Ireland now took from it a colour. In the 
autumn of 1842 a few young Irishmen of genius founded 
the Nation^ and by their inspiring appeals to national 

1 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 

1843] YOUNG IRELAND 173 

sentiment contrived to produce a transient and delusive 
semblance of union between the contending creeds and 
classes of a sorely distracted country. As the session 
of 18J:3 advanced, the movement began to attract atten- 
tion in Parliament, and Smythe and Manners — the one 
having family connexions with Ireland, and the other, 
as on one occasion he reminded the House, being grand- 
son of a popular Tory Lord Lieutenant — crossed the 
Channel to see for themselves. They returned little 
satisfied with the policy of the Government, which, as 
far as it had then been disclosed, was limited to the well- 
worn expedient of an Arms Bill — in accordance with 
the tradition that English Governments should atone for 
their neglect and inaction in periods of calm weather 
by a resort to spasmodic violence when storms broke 
out afresh. Graham, who, as Home Secretary, was the 
Cabinet Minister responsible, had even been foolish 
enough to declare, in a speech on the Arms Bill, that 
' conciliation in Ireland had been carried to its utmost 
limit ' ; and the Duke of Wellington, it was well known, 
thought that this limit had already been transgressed. 

Ireland was now, as Disraeli wrote to his sister, ' the 
only thought and word,' and in July there was a debate 
which lasted many nights, on a resolution of Smith 
O'Brien's asking for inquiry with a view to the re- 
dress of grievances. Cochrane, Manners, and Smythe all 
three spoke, and all gave free expression to the discon- 
tent they felt. Manners held up the administration of 
Strafford as an example to be followed, and announced 
that, as he did not think the question of confidence was 
involved, he would vote for the motion. Smythe told 
the Ministry that they ought to govern Ireland in the 
spirit of Mr. Pitt, who would not have come down with 
an Arms Bill and an Arms Bill alone ; and he also took 
occasion to express his regret that Catholic Emancipation 
had been carried by Peel rather than by Canning — by an 
enemy rather than by a friend — and that so the healing 
effects of that measure had been lost. Peel was strangely 

174 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

maladroit in his handling of a situation the difficulties of 
which, if a little tact had been applied, need hardly have 
been formidable. With equal lack of good temper and 
good sense he recommended Smythe to vote against the 
Government, telling him that this would be a more manly 
course than to lend them a hollow and seeming support ; 
and it is not surprising to find that the triumvirate ^ all 
three took him at his word, and voted in the minority 
for O'Brien's motion. Well might Peel's pupil and 
admirer, Gladstone, say that his chief ' was not skilful in 
the management of personal and sectional dilemmas.'^ 

In a subsequent debate Smythe flung out the taunt, 
which was greeted with loud cheers from both sides of 
the house, that different language had been heard when 
majorities were counted by units instead of by hundreds. 
Others had noted a change in Feel's demeanour towards 
his supporters since his establishment in office with over- 
whelming strength ; ^ but his arrogance towards Young 
England is the less easy to understand, as the prestige 
of his Ministry was now at its lowest ebb. Ireland, if 
their chief, was by no means tlieir only, difficulty. Dis- 
tress and discontent were still rife in Great Britain. 
The agricultural interest was in a state of extreme irrita- 
tion over what it regarded as a fresh attack on its position 
in the concessions just granted to American corn. The 
disasters in Afghanistan, for which the responsibility of 
the present Ministers was really slight, had nevertheless 
brought them odium ; and when the turn of fortune 
came. Lord Ellenborough, their Governer-General, so 
managed that the odium was converted into ridicule. 
To a nation that had grown accustomed to Palmerston's 
boisterous methods, Aberdeen's foreign policy seemed 
lacking in spirit, and it did nothing to diminish the 
unpopularity of the Government. A letter of Macaulay's, 
written less than a fortnight after the Irish debate, gives 

1 Disraeli was absent. 2 Morley's Gladstone, I., p. 253. 

3 See, for instance, some bitter remarks of Lord Ashley's in Hodder's 
Life of Shaftesbury, ch. 9. 


a picture of the situation as it presented itself to a keen 
observer on the front Opposition bench. 

As to politics, the Ministers are in a most unenviable situar 
tion; and, as far as I can see, all the chances are against 
them. The immense name of the Duke, though now only 
a 'magni nominis umbra,' is of great service to them. His 
assertion, unsupported by reasons, saved Lord Ellenborough. 
. . . But he is 74, and in constitution more than 74. His 
death will be a terrible blow to these people. I see no reason 
to believe that the Irish agitation will subside of itself, or that 
the death of O'Connell would quiet it. On the contrary, I 
much fear that his death would be the signal for an explosion. 
The aspect of foreign politics is gloomy. The finances are 
in disorder. Trade is in distress. Legislation stands still. 
The Tories are broken up into three or more factions, which 
hate each other more than they hate the Whigs — the faction 
which stands by Peel, the faction which is represented by 
Vyvyan and the Morning Post, and the faction of Smythe 
and Cochrane. I should not be surprised if, before the end 
of the next session, the Ministry were to fall from mere 

Hitherto Disraeli, though he had voted against the 
Government on the Canadian corn question, had uttered 
no word in criticism of their policy, but when the Irish 
Arms Bill came up for its third reading in August he took 
the side of Young England in a speech which shows signs 
of careful preparation. Ireland being in the foreground, 
he had, in accordance with his habit, been studying 
Irish history, a thing that English statesman have very 
rarely done. ' Irish policy is Irish history,' he said in 
the House of Commons a quarter of a century later,^ 
' and I have no faith in any statesman who attempts to 
remedy the evils of Ireland who is either ignorant of the 
past or who will not deign to learn from it.' He began 
on the present occasion by urging that, as the Minister 
since his accession to office had thrown over the Irish 

1 Macaulay to Napier, July 22, 1843 : Trevelyan's Life, ch. 9. It would 
appear, from a letter of General Baudrand's, that Disraeli himself had 
written a month earlier to his friends in Paris that the Ministry was in 


2 March 16, 1868. 

176 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

policy which he had advocated while in opposition, his 
supporters were now free from all bonds of party on 
this particular subject. An hon. member on his own 
side (Smythe) had put forward opinions which had 
excited some surprise, but which he had defended as the 
old and legitimate Tory doctrines. The defence was at 
once historically true and politically just. He could 
find no grounds in history for the common assumption 
that hostility to the Irish people was a characteristic of 
Tory policy. The policy of Charles I. had been based 
on conciliation of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and 
at no later period, when the Tories had been preponderant, 
had their policy been different ; whereas the Whigs, 
when they held the command of the Government for 
the long period of seventy years in the eighteenth century, 
had been consistently hostile to the Irish Roman Catholics. 
At a time like the present, when those who had been their 
leaders no longer led, and they found themselves sinking 
into a faction without principles, it was their duty to 
recur to the traditions of the party ; and he thought there 
was nothing more strange than that the gentlemen of 
England, who were the descendants of the Cavaliers, 
should be advocates for governing Ireland on the prin- 
ciples of the Roundheads. 

Ministers had announced almost with ostentation that 
they intended to do nothing, and this paralysis of policy 
appeared to be caused by dissensions in the Cabinet. 
' The leader of the Government in another House ^ was 
chalking " No Popery " on the walls, while the leader 
of the Government in that House told them that he, 
for himself, cared nothing about Protestant or Papist.' 
When he found systems so inconsistent, resulting only 
in imbecility, he had a right to suppose that there were 
dissensions in the Cabinet, and he believed that they 
would destroy this or any other Cabinet which did not 
address itself to the question of Irish government in 
a very different spirit. It was perfectly clear that if 

1 The Duke of Wellington. 


they abolished the Protestant Church to-morrow and 
established the Roman Catholic, or chose any isolated 
remedies one after the other, they would produce no 
improvement in the condition of Ireland. It had arrived 
at that pitch which required a great man to have recourse 
to great remedial measures. They must reorganise and 
reconstruct, not only the government, but even the 
social state of the country. 

With regard to the present measures he had little 
to say : 

There are some measures which to introduce is disgraceful, 
and which to oppose is degrading. I have given no vote on 
this Bill one way or the other, and I shall continue that 
course, being perfectly persuaded of its futility. Believing 
that Ireland is governed in a manner which conduces only 
to the injury of both countries ; that the principles declared 
by Ministers are not capable of relieving us from the difficult 
position in which we are placed ; believing that the old prin- 
ciples of the party with which I am connected are quite 
competent, if pursued, to do that, I hope the time will come 
when a party framed on true principles will do justice to 
Ireland, not by satisfying agitators, not by adopting in despair 
the first quack remedy that is offered from either side of the 
House, but by really penetrating into the mystery of this 
great misgovernment, so as to bring about a state of society 
which will be advantageous both to England and Ireland, 
and which will put an end to a state of things that is the 
bane of England and the opprobrium of Europe. 

The insubordination of Smythe and his friends had 
attracted little notice, but this speech of Disraeli's was 
a more serious matter, and evoked a great deal of com- 
ment. The Whig press of course made the most of the 
opportunity. Disraeli spoke from his usual place just 
behind Peel and Graham, and one malicious journalist 
describes with graphic detail the behaviour of the two 
Ministers during the performance. The Prime Minister, 
he tells us, endeavoured to ' palliate the effects of the 
castigation by industriously rubbing his nose ; while the 
Home Secretary, edging occasionally round, would look 
up in the face of the orator with that sort of uneasy smile 

VOL. II — X 

178 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

by which one sometimes tries to convey the idea of being 
not only perfectly at ease, but exceedingly amused.' ^ 
Sraythe rose later and resumed his attack on Peel, 
sheltering himself under the plea that when persons were 
substituted for principles personality became a duty ; 2 
and angrily declaring that, talk as they might of the 
intolerance of the Roman Catholics, their intolerance 
could be matched on the benches below. Peel when he 
rose could find nothing better in the way of reply than 
a sneer at Disraeli's ' new-born zeal ' for Ireland ; a 
regret that he could not see in the hon. member himself 
the man who was to realise his vision of the great 
statesman with a comprehensive policy ; and a renewal 
of his former invitation to Smythe to vote against the 

Disraeli, we may suppose, was not the less willing to 
criticise the Government, as he was now convinced that 
Peel had ceased to be conciliatory in his demeanour 
towards himself. In the course of the present Parliament 
he had asked half a dozen questions, most of them on 
matters of current foreign policy ; and one seems to 
detect in the Minister's replies, even as they appear in 
the dry record of Hansard, a certain needless curtness or 
hint of disapproval. No offence may have been intended, 
for Peel's manners even in Parliament, where he was 
most at his ease, were notoriously ungracious, and he 
was not skilful in those blandishments of 'my honour- 
able friend ' by which a tactful leader knows how to 
soften the asperity of a refusal of information to an 
inquisitive supporter. On a recent occasion his dis- 
courtesy to Disraeli, whether intentional or not, had been 
more apparent than usual. An insurrection in Servia 
had led to the usual dithculties between Russia and the 

'^Morning Chronicle, August 11, 1843. 

2 ' 1 came in with others,' he said in a speech to his constituents a few 
years later (July 6, 1847), ' full of hot thoughts and ardent speculations, 
and we sat by men who . . . had but one rule, . . . the will of the sole 
Minister. When persons were thus substituted for principles, personalities 
became a duty with those who wished to substitute principles for persons.' 


Porte ; and Disraeli, already anxious, as he showed in 
his remarks, about ' the integrity of the Turkish Empire,' 
and with his anxiety possibly quickened by communica- 
tions from the King of the French,^ who had no love for 
Russia, pressed the Minister as to his policy. He re- 
ceived a rebuff, and did not forget it. A few days ^ after 
the speech on the Irish Arms Bill, Palmerston opened a 
debate on the situation in the East, and Disraeli, rising 
after Peel, criticised severely the inaction of the Govern- 
ment. It was a strange termination of his campaign 
against Palmerston, and he made the occasion memorable, 
not only by the support he gave to his former antagonist, 
but by aiming a personal shot, the first of many, at Peel. 
' I remember,' he remarked, ' some time since to have 
made an inquiry of the right hon. gentleman with 
respect to the interference of Russia in Servia, an in- 
quiry couched, I believe, in Parliamentary language, 
and made with all that respect which I feel for the 
right hon. gentleman, and to which the right hon. 
gentleman replied with all that explicitness of which 
he is a master, and all that courtesy which he reserves 
only for his supporters.' The great Minister was regarded 
by many of his supporters as schoolboys regard a severe 
head-master, and as he was well known to have a weak- 
ness for the applause of his opponents — a weakness which 
seems incident to Parliamentary leadership — one can 
imagine the secret joy with which the sarcasm was hailed 
on the benches behind him. 

In the light of Disraeli's later career the matter of 
this speech has an interest of its own. The real question, 
he said, was whether England would maintain the in- 
dependence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. He 
wished to guard himself from being supposed to hold 
fanatical opinions as to Russian designs. He believed 
these designs to be perfectly legitimate. He saw much 

1 During Disraeli's stay in Paris, Louis Philippe had lamented 'I'insou- 
ciance avec laquelle I'Autriche et I'Angleterre laissaient tomber I'Empire 
Ottoman sous le bon vouloir de la Russie.' 

2 On Aug. 15. 

180 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

to respect in Russia ; he respected her nationality, he 
respected her intelligence, he respected her power. We, 
too, had nationality and power ; but we were deficient 
in that intelligence, especially with regard to the East, 
for which Russia was eminent. The great question of 
foreign policy was simpler than statesmen were inclined 
to admit. If they looked at the map, they would see 
that the two strongest positions in the world were the 
Sound and the Dardanelles, and as long as these positions 
were held as at present the balance of power was 
safe. But Russia was approaching them gradually, 
regularly, sometimes even rapidly, and if she obtained 
possession of one the balance of power would be dis- 
turbed, while if both fell under her authority universal 
empire would be threatened. Our true policy was, 
therefore, by diplomatic action to maintain Turkey in 
a state to hold the Dardanelles. Turkey indeed was 
prostrate ; but what ground was there for the assumption 
that her regeneration was hopeless ? If she had lost her 
finest provinces, so had England little more than half a 
century back ; if her capital had been occupied, that was 
a calamity that had befallen every State in Europe with 
the exception of England. Her resources were still 
unequalled, and it was the diplomacy of Europe during 
the last twenty years that had reduced her to her present 
condition. Once more he imputed no blame to Russia, 
who was pursuing her own interest by legitimate means. 
She had a fixed, deep policy founded on ample know- 
ledge ; we opposed to it a policy uncertain and super- 
ficial, and founded in ignorance, a policy that at the 
present moment had made us the laughing-stock of 

As a matter of fact, Aberdeen's diplomacy at this time, 
and his complaisance to the Tsar Nicholas when he 
visited England in the following year, did not a little 
to foster the ambitions that led to the Crimean War ; 
but the House of Commons was less occupied with the 
intrinsic value of Disraeli's criticism than with the fact 


that he should have had the temerity to criticise at all. 
Peel's position in the Conservative party had so long been 
commanding, and his authority so long unquestioned, that 
any display of independence was a matter for astonishment ; 
and this speech of Disraeli's, coming after his attack on 
the Irish policy of the Government, made no small im- 
pression. An incident that followed showed the temper 
that prevailed on the Ministerial benches. Lord Sandon, 
a prominent supporter of Peel's, rose and rebuked Dis- 
raeli's presumption, absurdly accusing him of having 
heaped ' the grossest terms of contumely and oppro- 
brium ' upon Her Majesty's Ministers, whom he affected 
to support. When challenged to cite the terms of oppro- 
brium, Sandon was unable to recall the exact words he 
had in mind, and his extravagance was reproved by 
speaker after speaker in the subsequent debate, including 
men as little prejudiced in favour of Disraeli as Hume 
and Palmerston himself. Disraeli, as we shall see, sus- 
pected that the attack had been inspired by the Govern- 
ment, and The Times would appear to have shared 
his suspicion, for in its comments on the incident it 
condemned such attempts to ' cow and bully ' private 
members as fatal to the principle of free and fair debate, 
and reminded the Minister that it was not for the public 
benefit, or really for his own, however much for his con- 
venience, that he should be above all question from his 
own side of the House. Peel declared afterwards that 
he was innocent in the matter, and Sandon's attack was 
probably spontaneous ; but whether he received en- 
couragement from the front bench or not, a letter from 
Graham to Croker, written a week later, leaves us in 
no doubt as to the feelings towards Disraeli that were 
harboured in that quarter : 

With respect to Young England, the puppets are moved 
by Disraeli, who is the ablest man among them : I consider 
him unprincipled and disappointed, and in despair he has 
tried the effect of bulhang. 1 think with you that they will 
return to the crib after prancing, capering, and snorting-, 

182 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

but a crack or two of the whip well applied may hasten and 
insure their return. Disraeli alone is mischievous ; and with 
him I have no desire to keep terms. It would be better for 
the party if he were driven into the ranks of our open 

The general spirit of this letter may help us to under- 
stand why the eminent man who wrote it was so little 
loved by his contemporaries, and in the light of the 
disposition towards Disraeli which it reveals subsequent 
events become a good deal less surprising. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Caklton Club, 

Afonday [July 17]. 

London, that a little while ago seemed so dull that the shop- 
keepers were in despair, is suddenly favored by the most 
animated season, for which the Cockneys are indebted to 
the King of Hanover, now the most popular man in town — 
for the first time in his life. Grand fetes every day, and 
apparently interminable. We have had and are to have our 
fair share. 

On Thursday the Duchess of Buckingham after a banquet 
held an assembly which was extremely brilliant and well 
arranged. The Duke had gotten the band of the Life Guards 
in the galleries of his grand staircase, which is of the Italian 
style and mounts to the roof of his house, and the effect was 
stirring. Every guest welcomed with a martial flourish. 
The Duchess of Gloucester and the Grand-Duke of Mecklen- 
burg and his intended father-in-law were there as well as 
his Majesty. There were six Dukes: Wellington, Cleveland, 
Marlboro', Argyll, Buccleuch, and Buckingham. Four of 
these Knights of the Garter, while two others appeared in 
the shapes of Salisbury and Jersey, to say nothing of the 
royal Knights. Richmond himself wore two immense 
diamond stars — the Grand Cross of the Guelph, in honor of 
his Guelphic guest, as well as that of the Garter — but persists 
in wearing the garter itself on pantaloons ! 

On Friday Lady Lyndhurst had a select reception after a 
royal dinner. We formed a Court circle, and the King went 
round. I was presented by the Lord Chancellor in a flowery 
harangue, and received gracious compliments from His 
Majesty. He even shook hands with me. The second King 
who has shaken hands with me in six months ! 

^ Croker Papers, III., p. 9. 

1843] THE END OF A SEASON 183 

Lady Peel has asked us to a grand rout and royal reception 
on the 21st, and the St. Aulaires to a ball [at the French 
Embassy], which is to be the most magnificent ever given in 
London, on the 27th. 

On the 22nd Sir Edward Bulwer gives a grand dejeuner at 
Craven Cottage : and we are engaged to dinner on the same 
day to the Antony de Rothschilds, but as our host and hostess 
are going to the breakfast as well as ourselves, I trust we 
shall none of us get away till night, and so escape the dinner. 

House of Commons, 

Friday [July 21]. 

Yesterday we were at a most delightful f^te, Gunnersbury, 
Madame de Rothschild m^re. A most beautiful park and 
a villa worthy of an Italian Prince, though decorated with a 
taste and splendor which a French financier in the olden 
times could alone have rivalled. 

The bright morning unfortunately ended in a dingy after- 
noon, which threw us much on the resources of indoor nature, 
notwithstanding the military bands, and beautiful grounds, 
temples and illuminated walks. However, we had a cheering 
concert, a banquet of illimitable delicacies, and, at the end, 
a ball. All the world of grandeur present: Ernest L, the 
Cambridges, Duchess of Gloucester. ^Ye were much grati- 
fied : and I got well waited on by our old friend Amy, who 
brought me some capital turtle, which otherwise I should have 


We returned from Deepdene this morning, after a most 
agreeable visit, with beautiful weather. One night I sat next 
to Mrs. Evelyn of Wotton, a widow; her son, the present 
squire, there also; a young Oxonian and full of Young 
England. We are going to Manchester and Liverpool — a 
rapid visit which I must make — and after a respite of forty- 
eight hours for business we should like to come to Bradenham 
for as long as you will have us. I am writing \_Coningshy~\, 
and want a workroom ; therefore, if it does not inconvenience 
anybody, let me have my old writing-room next to your 
room. The journals daily descant on the ' new party ' that 
has arisen to give a new color to modern politics, &c. 

In a letter to a friend, Mrs. Disraeli recounts in detail 
their movements during the recess. 

Nov. 24. 
After passing a few days with Sir E. and Lady Sugden, we 
"ent to our friend Mr. Hope, and remained all September 

184 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

with him at the beautiful Deepdene. On our return we went 
to Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester. At the former place 
we were much feted. There was a grand literary meeting 
at the Free Trade Hall : they sent a deputation to Dis suggest- 
ing his presence; he declined, and they sent a deputation of 
ladies, which, you know, he could not refuse ; so he went, and 
made a fine speech for them — all said by far the finest — 
literary not political. 

At the Manchester meeting Charles Dickens was in 
the chair. Disraeli in his speech, after a graceful allusion 
to another of the speakers as 'his hon. friend Mr. 
Cobden,' denounced as vulgar and superficial the preju- 
dice 'which associated with commerce and manufacture 
an inability to sympathise with the fair inventions of 
art or the poetic creations of the human intellect,' and 
held up before the people of Manchester the stimulating 
examples of the great merchants of Venice, who were 
the patrons of Titian and Tintoretto; the merchant 
family of the Medici, who made Florence the home of 
genius ; and the manufacturers of Flanders, who dwelt 
in such cities as Bruges, Ghent, and Mechlin. ^ The 
chairman described the speech as ' very brilliant and 
eloquent,' and the admiring wife of the orator does 
not seem to have exaggerated in her report of its 

Parliament met in February, and its meeting supplied 
tlie occasion for an interesting correspondence between 
Disraeli and Peel. Disraeli would appear to have had 
little or no suspicion of the manner in which his speeches 
of the previous summer were resented, or of the strength 
of the prejudice against him in the Ministry. He had 
even during the recess been simple enough to write to 
Graham, of all men, and ask him to bestow some office 
on one of his brothers. Having returned what he called 
'a civil but flat refusal,' Graham informed the Prime 
Minister of this ' impudent ' application, and the answer 
sent by Peel is worth reproducing : 

1 Manchester Guardian, Oct. 7, 1843. 


Dec. 22, 1843. 

I am very glad that Mr. Disraeli has asked for an office 
for his brother. It is a good thing when such a man puts 
his shabbiness on record. He asked me for office himself, 
and I was not surprised that being refused he became inde- 
pendent and a patriot. But to ask favours after his conduct 
last session is too bad. However, it is a bridle in his mouth! ^ 

This letter of Peel's, taken in connexion with Graham's 
avowed wish to drive Disraeli into open hostility, will help 
us to interpret the following correspondence : 

To Sir Robert Peel 

Gbosvenor Gate, Park Lane, 

Feb. 4, 1844. 

Dear Sir Robert, 

I was quite unaware until Friday night, when I was very 
generally apprised of it, that the circumstance of my not 
having received the usual circular from yourself to attend 
Parliament was intentional. 

The procedure admits, of course, of only one inference. 

As a mere fact, the circumstance must be unimportant 
both to you and to myself. For you, in the present state of 
parties — which will probably last our generation — a solitary 
vote must be a matter of indifference ; and for me, our rela- 
tions, never much cultivated, had for some time merged in the 
mere not displeasing consciousness of a political connexion 
with an individual eminent for his abilities, his virtues, and 
his station. 

As a matter of feeling, however, I think it right that a 
public tie, formed in the hour of political adversity, which 
has endured many years, and which has been maintained on 
my side by some exertions, should not terminate without this 
clear understanding of the circumstances under which it has 

I am informed that I am to seek the reasons of its dis- 
ruption in my Parliamentary conduct during the last session. 

On looking over the books, I perceive that there were four 
occasions on which I ventured to take a principal part in 

On the first I vindicated your commercial policy on 
grounds then novel in discussion, but which I believed con- 
ducive to your interest and your honor; and the justness 

1 Parker's Peel, III., p. 425. 

186 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

and accuracy of which, though never noticed by yourself or 
any of your colleagues, were on a subsequent occasion dis- 
tinctly and formally acknowledged by the leader of the 

In the second instance I spoke on a treaty of a difl&cult 
and delicate nature, against which the Opposition urged no 
insignificant charges, and to assist you to defend which I 
was aware you would not be likely to find much efficacious 
support on your own side. I have reason to believe that my 
efforts on this occasion were not wholly uninfluential on 
opinion; although, certainly, I never learned this from any 
member of her Majesty's Government. 

At the very end of the session there were two other 
occasions on which I spoke, and against isolated points of 
the policy of the Government — I mean with respect to Ireland 
and the Turkish Empire. Although an indiscreet individual, 
apparently premonished, did in the last instance conceive 
a charge against me of treating the Government with 
' systematic contumely,' he was utterly unable to sub- 
stantiate, scarcely equal to state, the imputation ; and the 
full miscarriage was generally admitted. I can recall no 
expression in those remarks more critical than others which 
have been made on other subjects, as on your agricultural 
policy, for example, by several of the supporters of your 
general system. Those remarks may indeed have been de- 
ficient in that hearty good-will which should be our spon- 
taneous sentiment to our political chief, and which I have 
generally accorded to you in no niggard spirit; but pardon 
me if I now observe, with frankness, but with great respect, 
that you might have found some reason for this, if you had 
cared to do so, in the want of courtesy in debate which I 
have had the frequent mortification of experiencing from 
you since your accession to power. Nor have I had the 
consolation of believing this fanciful on my part, since 
it has long been a subject of notice on both sides of the 

Under these circumstances, stated without passion, and 
viewed, I am sure, without acrimony, I am bound to say 
that I look upon the fact of not having received your 
summons, coupled with the ostentatious manner in which 
it has been bruited about, as a painful personal procedure, 
which the past by no means authorised. 

I have the honor to remain. 

Your faithfu' servant, 

B. Disraeli. 


From Sir Robert Peel. 


Feb. 6, 1844. 

My dear Sir, 

Although the omission on my part to request your at- 
tendance at the meeting of Parliament was not an accidental 
or inadvertent omission, it certainly was not the result of 
any feeling of personal irritation or ill-will on account of 
observations made by you in the House of Commons. 

I hope I have not a good memory for expressions used in 
debate which cause surprise or pain at the moment, and it 
would be quite unsuitable to the spirit in which your letter 
is written, and in which it is received, were I, after the lapse 
of several months, to refresh my recollection of such expres- 
sions, if such were used. 

My reason for not sending you the usual circular was an 
honest doubt whether I was entitled to send it — whether 
towards the close of the last session of Parliament you had not 
expressed opinions as to the conduct of the Government in 
respect to more than one important branch of public policy, 
foreign and domestic, which precluded me, in justice both 
to you and to myself, from proffering personally an earnest 
request for your attendance. 

If you will refer to the debate on the Irish Arms Bill, and 
to that on Servia, and recall to your recollection the general 
tenor of your observations on the conduct of the Government, 
you will, I think, admit that my doubt was not an unreason- 
able one. 

It gives me, however, great satisfaction to infer from your 
letter — as I trust I am justified in inferring — that my im- 
pressions were mistaken and my scruples unnecessary.^ 

I will not conclude without noticing two or three points 
adverted to in your letter. 

I am unconscious of having on any occasion treated you 
with the want of that respect and courtesy which I readily 
admit are justly your due. If I did so, the act was wholly 
unintentional on ray part. 

Any comments that were made on expressions used by 
you towards the Government were, so far as is consistent with 
my knowledge, altogether spontaneous on the part of the 
member from whom they proceeded. They were at any rate 
not made at my instigation or suggestion, direct or indirect. 

1 Peel's curious readiness to place the worst construction on the criti- 
cisms of a supporter is shown again a few months later in the case of Lord 
Ashley, who sent him a private remonstrance against the action of the Gov- 
ernment in the matter of the sugar duties, and was answered in a letter re- 
gretting the withdrawal of his confidence and support (Parker, III., p. 153). 

188 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

Lastly, I cannot call to mind that I have mentioned to a 
single person — excepting to the one or two to whom the 
mention was absolutely unavoidable — that I had omitted to 
address to you a request for your attendance. Nothing could 
be farther from my wishes or feelings than that there should 
be any ostentatious notice of the omission. 

I have the honour to be, my dear sir, 

Faithfully yours, 

Robert Peel. 

We may doubt whether Disraeli, though lie had not, 
like us, the advantage of knowing Peel's real sentiments, 
was led far astray by this very plausible letter ; but, as 
it was conciliatory in tone, he seized the first opportunity 
of showing that he himself had no desire for an open 
breach. Ireland was still in the political foreground. 
The success of the Irish executive in securing the aban- 
donment of the Clontarf meeting in October Iiad averted 
the danger of immediate revolution ; but the Govern- 
ment were now involved in the tangle of the O'Connell 
trial, and soon after the House met the leader of the 
Opposition moved what was tantamount to a formal 
vote of censure on their Irish administration. The 
debate lasted nine nights, and Disraeli at the close voted 
with the Government, leading his three friends, Smythe, 
Manners, and Cochrane, into the same lobby. He ex- 
plained his position in a speech on the fourth night, 
which not only had a great immediate success, but is of 
interest to this day as one of the most remarkable pro- 
nouncements on the Irish question ever heard in Parlia- 
ment. He showed once more that he had been reading 
Irish history,^ resuming, with his habitual continuity of 
thought, every thread of argument in his Irish speech 
of the previous session ; and though he obviously wished 
to be friendly to Peel, he repeated every offending phrase 
he had used on that occasion, as if determined to prove 
that his criticisms had not been prompted by any feeling 

1 ' He is the only English Prime Minister,' says an Irish writer, with 
this speech in his mind, ' who has appealed to historic incidents that touch 
the hearts of the Irish people ' {Lord Beaconsfield' s Irish Policy., by Sir 
John Pope Henuessy, p. 11). 

1844] A TRUCE 18& 

of pique, and that, anxious as he might be for peace with 
the Government, he was not prepared to purchase it 
by the sacrifice of opinions deliberately formed. 

He began with a picture, rose-coloured, perhaps, of 
the happy condition of Ireland during the administra- 
tion of Straffoi'd, when a system of perfect civil and 
political equality had reconciled the Roman Catholics 
under a King, a Viceroy, and an established Church all 
Protestant. The troubles that followed were all to be 
traced to Puritanism — to Puritanism, and not to Protes- 
tantism. It was Puritanism that was responsible for 
the confiscations ^ and the penal laws ; it was Puritanism 
that had fostered the spirit of exclusion which had so 
long prevailed ; it was a Puritanic spirit that had de- 
stroyed the influence of the Church of Ireland. For 
these things the Tories had no responsibility, and he was 
anxious to see them rescued from the untenable position 
they were now supposed to occupy, that it was one of the 
heirlooms of their party to look with jealousy on Ireland. 

He had said the year before that for the settlement of 
the Irish question two things were necessary — to put 
down the turbulence by which Ireland was convulsed, 
and to recognise and remove its causes. They had put 
down the turbulence, and were beginning to talk of the 
necessity of inquiring into its causes. If he asked what 
was their remedy, he might again, perhaps, subject himself 
to the imputation of new-born zeal ; but zeal was a 
quality so rare in that house, and he feared in that age 
and country, that he was not overwhelmed by such an 
imputation. As a matter of fact, his views as to the 
government of Ireland were the same as they had always 
been, and he had explained them on the only fitting 
occasion ^ that had presented itself — in a debate on the 
subject of municipal corporations, at the close of which 

1 It is to be feared that this is only trae because Puritanism triumphed, 
and so secured the opportunity. Strafford's own record in the matter of 
confiscations is very far from clean. 

2 See p. 57. 

190 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vj 

he had voted against the counsel of his leader. He had 
argued in that debate against the fallacy that justice 
to Ireland implied an identity between Irish and English 

I then asked the House whether those forced establishments, 
those mimetic corporations, those grand juries, those imita- 
tive benches of English magistrates, could be expected to 
produce beneficial results, and I ventured to lay down as a 
principle that the government of Ireland should be on a 
system the reverse of England, and should be centralised; 
that we should have a strong executive and an impartial 
administration. I beg distinctly to say that I have never 
changed my principles on Irish policy or in any other respect. 
I say this without reservation — at no time, at no place, under 
no circumstances, have I ever professed any other principles 
than those I now maintain. They are Tory principles, 
the natural principles of the democracy of England. . . . Let 
us forget two centuries of political conduct for which Toryism 
is not responsible ; let us recur to the benignant policy of 
Charles I. ; then we may settle Ireland with honor to our- 
selves, with kindness to the people, and with safety to the 

If anyone came forward with a comprehensive plan 
for the solution of the Irish problem, he would support 
it at any sacrifice — yea, even though he should afterwards 
have to retire from Parliament. 

But I confess I have no apprehension of that. I have the 
honour to represent the oldest Tory constituency in the 
country, and I have already succeeded in weeding from their 
minds some most inveterate Whig prejudices. Last year, 
for example, when I was told that 1 had lost my seat be- 
cause I had supported the right hon. gentleman's tariff, I 
went down to see my friends in the country, and explained 
the history of England to them (great cheering and laughter) ; 
and I can assure the House that after that they took the 
most enlightened views upon the subject, and were proud to 
recur to old Tory principles of commerce. 

He could not understand the new morality of the 
House of Commons, which shrank from what was de- 
sirable because of difficulties and prejudices. Why, in 


1832 it was thought that notliing could be more difficult 
than to reconstruct the Conservative party ; but the 
right hon. gentleman set to work like a man, and it 
was done, and done well. 

There were prejvidices to be removed in that case, too — 
the prejudices of very eminent personages ; but that also 
was done with time and resohition ; and there sits the 
right hon. baronet at this moment with a Secretary of 
State on each side of him, whose prejudices he has succeeded 
most effectually in removing. (Loud cheers and laughter 
from every part of the house, in which Sir Robert Peel, sitting 
between Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham, could not 
refrain from joining.) ... I do not think it is more difficult to 
reconstruct the social system of Ireland than to reconstruct 
a party destroyed by a revolution ; nor do I think it a more 
arduous task to remove the prejudices of those who think 
little than of those who think a great deal. All the right 
hon. baronet will have to do will be what public men do 
not seem to think they have the power of doing — to create 
public opinion instead of following it ; to lead the public 
instead of always lagging after and watching others. 

With regard to the immediate question, he could not 
vote for the noble lord (John Russell), because he offered 
nothing more than her Majesty's Ministers. They 
offered a great deal for them ; the noble lord offered little, 
though he offered it in a great way. That was not what 
he wanted. 

I want to see a public man come forward and say what 
the Irish question is. One says it is a physical question ; 
another, a spiritual. Now it is the absence of the aristocracy, 
then the absence of railroads. It is the Pope one day; 
potatoes the next. Consider Ireland as you would any other 
country similarly situated, in your closets. You will see a 
teeming population which, with reference to the cultivated 
soil, is denser to the square mile than that of China; created 
solely by agriculture, with none of those sources of wealth 
which develop with civilisation ; and sustained, consequently, 
upon the lowest conceivable diet, so that in case of failure 
they liave no other means of subsistence upon which they 
can fall back. That dense population in extreme distress 
inhabits an island where there is an Established Church 
which is not their Church (loud cheers from the Opposition), 

192 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

and a territorial aristocracy the richest of whom live in distant 
capitals. Thus you have a starving population, an absentee 
aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest 
executive in the world. That is the Irish question. 

Anyone reading of such a country would say the 
remedy was revolution, but here the connexion with 
England made revolution impossible. What, then, was 
the duty of an English Minister? To effect by his policy 
all those changes which a revolution would effect by force. 

The moment you have a strong executive, a just administra- 
tion, and ecclesiastical equality, you will have order in Ireland, 
and the improvement of the physical condition of the people 
will follow — not very rapidly, perhaps ; you must not flatter 
yourselves that it will. But what are fifty years, even, in the 
history of a nation ? and I will say, if these recommendations 
are adopted, that fifty years hence the men who shall succeed 
the present generation in Parliament will find the people of 
Ireland a contented and thriving peasantry. ... I look to 
no foreign, no illegitimate influences for bringing about that 
result — not to the passions of the Irish people, not to the 
machinations of their demagogues, not to the intrigues of 
distant nations, but to a power far more influential, far more 
benignant, a power more recently risen in the world, not yet 
sufl&ciently recognised ('What, Young England?') — no, not 
Young England, but a power which Young England respects 
— that irresistible law of our modern civilisation which has 
decreed that the system which cannot bear discussion is 

In the subsequent debate Peel took occasion to make 
graceful mention of 'the very able speech of the hon. 
member for Shrewsbury — a speech not the less to be 
admired because it departed from the ordinary routine 
of Parliamentary eloquence and touched on more com- 
prehensive and general views ' ; and Macaulay was moved 
by Disraeli's attack on the Puritans, in his ' very ingenious 
speech,' to a learned disquisition, which is still worth 
reading, on the historical causes of Irish discontent. A 
note in Disraeli's hand, with the date Sunday night, 
February 18, 1844, and the inscription, 'Written at Mary 

1 The Times, Feb. 17, 1844. 


Anne's command after dinner,' records some other con- 
temporary comments : 

Bernal met Smythe, and said, 'Disraeli's speech was the 
greatest thing I ever heard.' Smythe said, ' I don't think 
so, for I have heard Disraeli make as great.' Bernal replies, 
*I tell you what it is: if he was a Lord Tom Noddy, that 
man would revolutionise the nation.' Smythe is all for Tom- 


On Saturday morning a breakfast at Milnes's ; Lord John 
Manners, Chevalier Bunsen, Hallam, and others. Nothing 
(Lord J. tells it) spoken of but my speech. Hallam much 
taunted that the Whigs were only Puritans. Defended the 
Whigs very much, «&;c. 


Serjeant Murphy told Eaton that it was the most brilliant 
speech he ever heard — nothing but epigrams. According to 
Smythe, 'he did not know how any sentence would end or 
what would come next.' 


Lord Mahon followed me into a corner with outstretched 
hand to congratulate me on a speech with which he could 
not on many points agree, but which was unquestionably 
one of the ablest ever delivered. His panegyric was un- 


Sterling had read all the debates, and there was only one 
speech of a man of genius. His criticism in detail very in- 
teresting. The bit about the Secretaries immortal. 

The speech became famous during the Disestablishment 
debates a quarter of a century later. 'A more closely 
woven tissue of argument and observation,' said Glad- 
stone on one occasion, praising it for his own purposes, 
'has seldom been heard in the debates of this House.' 
The phrases about the ' alien Church ' were of course 
turned against their author ; but when reminded of them, 
Disraeli nonchalantly replied that at the time he made 
the speech nobody seemed to listen. ' It may have been 
expressed with the heedless rhetoric which I suppose is 
the appanage of all who sit below the gangway, but in 


194 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

my historical conscience the sentiment of that speech 
was right. ' ^ 

Sarah Disraeli to Mrs. Disraeli. 


Dis must, I think, now be quite satisfied : the best speech he 
has made, and, what is more, the most applauded, is in his 
own original vein. Are not Young England proud of their 
leader ? 

April 10. 

I went yesterday to Turville. ... I never saw Milord 
[Lyndhurst] more blooming : he looked as young and as well 
as Chalon's picture. We did not see much of him, as he was 
full of work and not dressed ; but when he did appear, he 
said a great deal in a little time. Almost his first inquiry 
was after Dis. ' And so he is going to turn us out,' he said : 
* I am told he is not exactly one of Young England, but their 
mentor and guide.' The speech about Ireland was mentioned 
— ' And a very good speech it was,' he added : whereupon 
I said, ' So it pleased Sir Robert Peel to say.' 

Aided by such speeches, Young England during this 
session steadily grew in influence. It retained, indeed, 
its original character as a group of personal friends with 
a common stock of ideas, and did not aspire to become 
a party formally organised and equipped with definite 
principles. ' Living much together, without combina- 
tion we acted together,' ^ was Disraeli's own account of 
the matter many years later. The house at Grosvenor 
Gate was their rallying-point in London. In the country 
they met at the Deepdene, whose owner, Henry Hope, 
though no longer in Parliament, had from the first been 
a zealous supporter of the movement ; sometimes at 
Bearwood, the country-house of the Walters, whose 
sympathies had been secured, and with them, if not the 
support, the benevolent interest, of The Times. In the 
House of Commons the movement gained several new 
adherents, who often reinforced the original group of 
friends. Of these the most notable were Augustus 

1 Hansard, March 16, 1868. 

2 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 


Stafford O'Brien, a master of epigram, who was popular 
on both sides of the House; and William Bustield Ferrand,^ 
a Yorkshire squire with ' a Dantonesque appearance,' 
who denounced in a stentorian voice, and with an em- 
barrassing knowledge of his subject, the crimes of the 
manufacturers and the woes of their employees. 
Monckton Milnes fluttered uneasily around the group, 
hesitating to commit himself. Outside the House they 
numbered among their friends, in addition to Hope and 
Faber, Ambrose Lisle Phillips,^ a well-known Roman 
Catholic, the Eustace Lyle of Coningshy. The social 
popularity of Smythe and other members caused Young 
England to be an object of some interest to society, and 
a dialogue between a couple of dandies^ in Coningshy 
gives us, we may suppose, a very fair conception of the 
intelligence with which society made its comments. 

'Buckhurst [said Mr. Melton] swears by Henry Sydney, 
a younger son of the Duke, and young Coningshy ; a sort of 
new set ; new ideas and all that sort of thing. . . . When 
they were staying with the Everinghams at Easter they were 
full of it. Coningshy had just returned from his travels, 
and they were quite on the qui vive. Lady Everingham is one 
of their set. I don't know what it is exactly ; but I think 
we shall hear more of it.' 

* A sort of animal magnetism, or unknown tongues, I take 
it from your description,' said his companion. 

' Well, I don't know what it is,' said Mr. Melton ; ' but it has 
got hold of all the young fellows who have just come out. . . . 
I had some idea of giving my mind to it, they made such a 
fuss about it at Everingham ; but it requires a devilish deal 
of history, I believe, and all that sort of thing.' 

* Ah ! that's a bore,' said his companion. ' It is difficult 
to turn to with a new thing when you are not in the habit of 
it. I never could manage charades.' 

Mr. Ormsby, passing by, stopped. . . . 

'Here's a new thing that Melton has been telling me of, 
that all the world is going to believe in,' said Mr. Cassilis ; 
'something patronised by Lady Everingham. . . . Young 

1 1809-1889. 2 1809-1878. 

3 Mr. Melton and Mr. Cassilis, representing Disraeli's friends James 
Macdonald and George Wombwell. 

196 YOUNG ENGLAND [chap, vi 

Coningsby brought it from abroad; didn't you say so, 
Jemmy ? ' 

* No, no, my dear fellow ; it is not at all that sort of thing.' 

* Bat they say it requires a deuced deal of history,' con- 
tinued Mr. Cassilis. ' One must brush up one's Goldsmith. 
Canterton used to be the fellow for history at White's. He 
was always boring one with William the Conqueror, Julius 
Caesar, and all that sort of thing.' * 

But Coningshy itself, to which we now come, did far 
more than the social successes of its hero, or even the 
speeches of its author, brilliant as they were, to awaken 
interest in Young England.^ 

1 Coningsby, Bk. VIII. ch. 1. 



English literature owes a debt of gratitude to Peel — or 
to Stanley, if to Stanley it is more appropriately due; 
their exclusion of Disraeli from office in 1841 led to 
Coningshy and Sybil and the creation of the political 
novel. Except for Alarms and a few political pieces, 
Disraeli's pen had been idle since his election to the House 
of Commons; but he now conceived the idea of applying 
the methods of fiction to his new world of experience, and 
began to write again. It was Henry Hope, he tells us,^ 
who first urged him to treat in a literary form the political 
ideas which they were in the habit of discussing; but it 
was only after reflection, as he elsewhere ^ records, that 
he chose the form of fiction as that ' which, in the temper 
of the times, offered the best chance of influencing 
opinion.' This appears to have been at the Deepdene 
in the autumn of 1843, and a novel was there and then 
begun, and continued during the winter at Bradenham 
and elsewhere. 

To Lord John Manners. 


Nov. 29, 1843. 

Mt dear Lord John, 

... I get on to my satisfaction: but authors are not 
the best critics of their own productions : I am more anxious 

1 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 

2 Preface to the Fifth Edition of Coningsby, 1849. 


198 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

about your opinion than my own. The sustained labor is, 
however, very painful : and I am daily more convinced that 
there is no toil like literature. However once in, etc. It is too 
late to moralise. I want to clear the deck if I can by the end 
of January, for action and speculation will never blend. . . . 

Ever yours, 


Coningshy was, in fact, itself an attempt to make action 
and speculation blend. 

The main purpose of its writer was to vindicate the just 
claims of the Tory party to be the popular political confedera- 
tion of the country ; a purpose which he had more or less 
pursued from a very early period of life. The occasion was 
favorable to the attempt. The youthful mind of England 
had just recovered from the inebriation of the great Conserva- 
tive triumph of 1841, and was beginning to inquire what, after 
all, they had conquered to preserve. It was opportune, 
therefore, to show that Toryism was not a phrase, but a fact, 
and that our political institutions were the embodiment of our 
popular necessities. This the writer endeavoured to do with- 
out prejudice, and to treat of events and characters of which 
he had some personal experience, not altogether without the 
impartiality of the future.^ 

''Coningshy wants little but a greater absence of 
purpose,' says one ^ of its best critics, 'to be a first-rate 
novel. If Mr. Disraeli had confined himself to the 
merely artistic point of view, he might have drawn a 
picture of political society worthy of comparison with 
Vanity Fair.'' Here, perhaps, mingled with a certain 
amount of truth, there is some of the sophistry of 'art 
for art's sake,' the same spirit of paradox that made the 
critic wish that ' Disraeli could have stuck to his novels 
without rising to be Prime Minister.' If Disraeli had 
been a mere politician, and nothing besides, he could never, 
of course, have written his political novels ; but one 
wonders whether the mere artist who was not also some- 
thing besides, who was not, in fact, himself an interested 
man of action, could have penetrated like Disraeli to the 

1 Preface to the Fifth Edition. ^ gjj. Leslie Stephen. 


Hf.ni;y Hope 
From a picture in the possession of Mr. Adrian Hope 


inmost soul of politics, or painted a picture of political 
society worthy of comparison with Coningshy. 

The novel was published in May, 1844, its full title being 
* Coningsby ;i or. The New Generation,' and Disraeli on 
the title-page describing himself as M.P. and author of 
Contarini Fleming. ' Conceived and partly executed 
amid the glades and galleries of the Deepdene,' it appeared 
with a dedication to Henry Hope, the friend to whom its 
inception was due, and whom Disraeli described in the 
single pregnant sentence written after his death : ' He 
was learned a,nd accomplished, possessed a penetrating 
judgment and an inflexible will.' The book issued from 
the office of Disraeli's old publisher Colburn, and the 
profits were divided equally between publisher and author, 
the author's share on 3,000 copies being about <£ 1,000. 
The success was great and immediate, and Disraeli told 
his sister that it had exceeded all his hopes. The first 
edition of 1,000 copies went off in a fortnight. ' Three 
considerable editions were sold in this country in three 
months ; it was largely circulated throughout the Conti- 
nent of Europe, and within a very brief period more than 
50,000 copies were required in the United States of 
America.' ^ 

The popularity of Coningshy has proved to be lasting, 
and it is still more read than any of Disraeli's works, with 
the possible exception of Lothair. Its success was helped, 
no doubt, at first by the fact that it was regarded as the 
manifesto of Young England, which had been making a 
considerable noise ; and still more by the fact that it 
contained many references, some of them caustic, to 
living statesmen by name, many figures that were intended 
to be accepted as portraits, and many others for which the 
keymakers, with more or less plausibility, were able to 
suggest originals of whom the author had never dreamt. 

1 Coningsby was the name of a well-known public man of the age of Queen 
Anne ; and it is worth noting as a coincidence, if nothing more, that Car- 
lyle's John Sterling, who died shortly after the appearance of Disraeli's 
book, had published a forgotten novel called Arthur Coningsby in 1833. 

2 Preface to the Fifth Edition. 

200 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

But the main reason both for the immediate success and 
the enduring fame of the novel is rather to be sought in 
its own genuine merits as a first and happiest effort in the 
new form of art which its author had invented, 

'I have seen Hope,' Disraeli wrote in a hurried note to 
his wife one day in the week after publication ; 'he only- 
says he is enchanted, but will say nothing more till he 
has finished and taken in the whole : Cochrane raving : 
Manners full of wild rapture.' Let Smythe speak for 
himself : 

From the Hon. George Smythe. 

Thtirsday night. 
Dear Diz, 

I have just finished it. What can I say, or write or 
think? I am so dazzled, bewildered, tipsy with admiration 
the most passionate and wild! 

I never read anything, thought of anything, felt anything, 
believed in anything, before. 

Thank God I have a faith at last! 'The blessing of all the 
prophets be with you,' is the prayer of a disciple more en- 
thusiastically devoted than any they ever counted. 

Yours ever most affectionately, 

G. S. Smythe. 

'I stop one minute,' wrote his sister from Bradenham, 
*to tell you that we are fascinated and delighted beyond 
expression. . . . PajDa says the man who has made the 
finest speech of the session has written the best book that 
ever was written.' 'Even you and Dis's family,' said 
his old friend Lady Blessington in a letter to Mrs. Disraeli, 
'take not a livelier pleasure or a greater pride than I 
in the brilliant succcess of Coningshy.'' 'I have read 
Coningshy — who has not?' wrote another old friend, the 
Lord Chancellor, Lyndhurst; 'full of wit and talent and 
splendid pictures.' 'Everybody here, from the Princess 
of Prussia downwards,' wrote Monckton Milnes from 
Berlin towards the close of the year, 'is reading and talk- 
ing Coningshy.^ 

The underlying story of the novel is slight, just 
enough to link together the politics and history, and 

1844] PLOT OF THE NOVEL 201 

to serve as an excuse for the introduction of the scenes 
of social and political life, and the long procession 
of figures, social and political, that marches across the 
stage. Harry Coningsby, the ostensible hero, who, as 
has been seen, stands for Smythe, is the grandson of the 
Marquis of Monmouth, a younger son's child and a solitary 
orphan, to whom 'the sweet sedulousness of a mother's 
love or a sister's mvstical affection ' has never been 
known. The story opens in the year 1832, when as a 
boy of fourteen he is summoned to London from Eton to 
have his first interview with his formidable grandfather, 
whom the crisis of the Reform Bill has brought over to 
England from his usual residence abroad. Lord Mon- 
mouth, who is presented as a nobleman of vast wealth, 
great political influence, rare sagacity, unbending will, 
intense selfishness, and licentious habits, is intended to 
reproduce that famous voluptuary, the third Marquis 
of Hertford,^ who was also the original of Thackeray's 
Marquis of Steyne ; and in the first chapter we make 
acquaintance with the Right Hon. Nicholas Rigby, who 
as political adviser and confidential man of business holds 
to Lord Monmouth much the same relation that John 
Wilson Croker held to Lord Hertford. Rigby is the type 
of the clever and resourceful, but base and shallow, 
parasite ; ' bold, acute, and voluble, with no thought but 
a great deal of desultory information ' ; ' fruitful in small 
expedients, and never happier than when devising shifts 
for great men's scrapes'; at once obsequious to his 
superiors and tyrannical to his inferiors ; a persistent 
intriguer, ' confided in by everybody, trusted by none ' ; 
an adept in subterranean journalism, and the author of 
many slashing articles in a Tory review ' written in a 
style apparently modelled on the briefs of those sharp 
attorneys who weary advocates with their clever common- 
place, teasing with obvious comment and torturing with 
inevitable inference. ' ' In most of the transactions of 
life there is some portion which no one cares to accom- 

1 1777-1842. See p. 130. 





202 CONINGSBY [chap, vn 

plisli, and which everybody wishes to be achieved. This 
was always the portion of Mr. Rigby. . . . Notwithstand- 
ing his splendid livery and the airs he gave himself in the 
servants' hall, his real business in life had ever been to do 
the dirty work.' 

Rigby has had charge of Coningsby during his patron's 
absence abroad, but Lord Monmouth, until now indifferent 
to his grandson, is attracted when he sees him, and hence- 
forth gives him a place in his ambitious calculations. In 
the first book we have a picture remarkable alike for its 
truthfulness ^ and charm of the boy's life at Eton. 
Coningsby is already the centre of a group, his greatest 
friends being Lord Henry Sydney and Sir Charles Buck- 
hurst, representing, as we have seen. Manners and Cochrane ; 
and a third, Oswald Millbank, a manufacturer's son, who, 
as far as he is intended to suggest a real person, stands for 
John Walter,^ the heir-apparent of the ruling dynasty 
of The Times. Through Millbank, Coningsby discovers, 
when his interest in politics begins to awaken, that they 
mean something more than an hereditary struggle between 
Tory nobles, like his grandfather, and the Whig nobles 
of whom he hears from his Whig friend Lord Vere. He 
becomes aware for the first time of the existence of a 
great class distinct from the nobility, but rivalling it in 

1 Disraeli seems to have taken what for him was unusual pains to make 
this picture faithful ; and he had some assistance from an Eton master, the 
Rev. W. G. Cookesley, who is mentioned byname in the novel, and who had, 
in fact, been Smythe's tutor. It is curious, however, to find that Lord 
Lyttelton (4th Baron, 1817-1876), who appears in the novel as 'the calm 
and sagacious Vere,' and who wrote as 'a faithful Etonian' to the author 
that ' the main features were given with admirable fidelity and life,' was 
able to fill a quarto sheet with critical comments ' on very minute matters ' 
— his 'grave doubts,' for instance, whether the boys ever in practice had 
a goose for breakfast. 

2 1818-1894. In an unauthorised key to Coningsby that appeared in the 
year of its publication, it was absurdly stated that Gladstone was the original 
of Oswald Millbank, and the statement has often been repeated, a certain 
resemblance, real or fancied, giving it plausibility. The resemblance, if any, 
was purely accidental. Disraeli in 1844 had no reason for feeling any 
particular interest in Gladstone, and certainly none for working him into his 
Young England .scheme by tran.sferring him to an Eton generation nearly 
ten years later than his own. Walter, on the other hand, was in close re- 
lations with Young England, had been a contemporary and friend of Smythe 
and Manners at F^ton, and, like Millbank, had gone to Oxford when they 
went to Cambridge. 


wealth, and determined to acquire power ; and in Mill- 
bank's crude opinions caught up from his father he finds 
materials for thought and a stimulus to a mind already 
predisposed to political inquiry. 

Presently we come to the crisis caused by the King's 
dismissal of Melbourne in 1834, and we have a picture, 
cynical but amusing, and drawn by a master hand, of the 
aspect of politics that is most visible at such a time. Two 
days after Peel's audience of the King, Mr. Ormsby,i 
celebrated for his political dinners, gave one to a numerous 
party, and we are allowed to catch some fragments of the 
conversation of his assembling guests. 

* Do you hear anything ? ' said a great noble who wanted 
something in the general scramble, but what he knew not ; 
only he had a vague feeling he ought to have something having 
made such great sacrifices. 

' There is a report that Clifford is to be Secretary to the 
Board of Control,' said Mr. Earwig, whose whole soul was in 
this subaltern arrangement, of which the Minister of course 
had not even thought ; ' but I cannot trace it to any authority.' 

< I wonder who will be their IMaster of the Horse,' said the 
great noble, loving gossip though he despised the gossiper. 

' Clifford has done nothing for the party,' said Mr. Earwig. 

* I dare say Rambrooke will have the Buckhounds,' said the 
great noble, musingly. 

' Your Lordship has not heard Clifford's name mentioned ? ' 
continued Mr. Earwig. 

' I should think they had not come to that sort of thing,' 
said the great noble, with ill-disguised contempt. ' The first 
thing after the Cabinet is formed is the Household : the things 
you talk of are done last ; ' and he turned upon his heel, and 
met the imperturbable countenance and clear sarcastic eye of 
Lord Eskdale.^ 

< You have not heard anything ? ' asked the great noble of 
his brother patrician. 

' Yes, a great deal since I have been in this room ; but 
unfortunately it is all untrue.' 

'There is a report that Rambrooke is to have the Buck- 
hounds ; but I cannot trace it to any authority.' 

' Pooh ! ' said Lord Eskdale. 

1 John Irving (d. 1853), a well-known Croesus of the day, member for 
Co. Antrim. 

2 Said to be a lifelike picture of the 2nd Earl of Lonsdale, 1787-1872. 

204 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

' I don't see that Rambrooke should have the Buckhounds 
any more than anybody else. What sacrifices has he made ? ' 

' Past sacrifices are nothing,' said Lord Eskdale. ' Present 
sacrifices are the thing we want : men who will sacrifice their 
principles, and join us.' 

' You have not heard Rambrooke's name mentioned ? ' 

' When a Minister has no Cabinet, and only one hundred 
and forty supporters in the House of Commons, he has some- 
thing else to think of than places at Court,' said Lord Eskdale, 
as he slowly turned away. 

Among Mr. Orrasby's guests were Tadpole and Taper, 
two political parasites of the type we should now call 
' wire-pullers,' members of the class of statesmen ' who 
believe the country must be saved if they receive twelve 
hundred a year.' 

It is a peculiar class, that ; £1,200 per annum, paid quarterly, 
is their idea of political science and human nature. To receive 
£1,200 per annum is government; to try to receive £1,200 per 
annum is opposition ; to wish to receive £1,200 per annum is 
ambition. If a man wants to get into Parliament, and does 
not want to get £1,200 per annum, they look upon him as daft ; 
as a benighted being. They stare in each other's face, and 
ask, ' What can ***** want to get into Parliament for ? ' 
They have no conception that public reputation is a motive 
power, and with many men the greatest. 

Tadpole and Taper, who were great personal friends, 
and neither of whom ' ever despaired of the Common- 
wealth,' withdrew after dinner to a distant sofa for a 
confidential talk. 

' And what do you put our numbers at now ? ' inquired Mr. 

' Would you take fifty-five for our majority ? ' rejoined Mr. 

' It is not so much the tail they have, as the excuse their 
junction will be for the moderate, sensible men to come over,' 
said Taper. ' Our friend Sir Everard, for example, it would 
settle him.' 

'He is a solemn impostor,' rejoined Mr. Tadpole; 'but he 
is a baronet and a county member, and very much looked up 
to by the Wesleyans. The other men, I know, have refused 
him a peerage.' 

' And we might hold out judicious hopes,' said Taper. 


' No one can do that better than you,' said Tadpole. ' I am 
apt to say too much about those things.' 

' I make it a rule never to open my mouth on such subjects,' 
said Taper. •' A nod or a wink will speak volumes. An 
affectionate pressure of the hand will sometimes do a great 
deal; and I have promised many a peerage without committing 
myself, by an ingenious habit of deference which cannot be 
mistaken by the future noble.' 

• ••••• 

' Ah ! Tadpole,' said Mr. Taper, getting a little maudlin ; 
*I often think, if the time should ever come, when you and I 
should be joint Secretaries of the Treasury ! ' 

* We shall see, we shall see. All we have to do is to get into 
Parliament, work well together, and keep other men down.' 

* We will do our best,' said Taper. ' A dissolution you hold 
inevitable ? ' 

* How are you and I to get into Parliament if there be not 
one ? We must make it inevitable. I tell you what, Taper, 
the lists must prove a dissolution inevitable. You understand 
me ? If the present Parliament goes on, where shall we be ? 
We shall have new men cropping up every session.' 

' True, terribly true,' said Mr. Taper. ' That we should 
ever live to see a Tory government again ! We have reason to 
be very thankful.' 

' Hush, said Mr. Tadpole. * The time has gone by for 
Tory governments ; what the country requires is a sound 
Conservative government.' 

'A sound Conservative government,' said Taper, musingly. 
* I understand : Tory men and Whig measures.' 

The dramatic struggle between parties during the 
period of Peel's short administration raised to the highest 
pitch the enthusiasm of Eton for Conservative principles ; 
but when the enthusiasm had subsided, Coningsby and 
his friends began to ask the question what Conservative 
principles meant. The final answer was only to shape 
itself in Coningsby's mind after several years of thought 
and study at Cambridge ; but before he left Eton he had 
attained to an earnest though rather vague conviction 
that the present state of feeling, both in politics and 
religion, was very far from healthy, that for the prevailing 
latitudinarianism of belief something deep, fervent, and 
definite would have to be substituted, and that the 
priests of the new faith must be sought in the ranks of 

«06 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

the New Generation. With his mind in this condition, 
he is ready to profit by an adventure that befalls him in 
the interval between his leaving Eton and beginning 
residence at Cambridge. On his way to pay a visit to 
his friend Henry Sydney at his ducal home Beaumanoir, 
he meets a stranger in a forest inn, one of those men, 
sometimes encountered, 'whose phrases are oracles, who 
condense in a sentence the events of life,' and who are 
able to utter 'words that make us think for ever.' The 
description of the forest, breathing Disraeli's sympathy 
with nature in the aspects in which she appealed to him 
most, of the storm which drove the travellers for refuge 
to the inn, and of the colloquy that then followed, make 
what is perhaps the best chapter in the book. 

Coningsby had never met or read of anyone like this chance 
companion. His sentences were so short, his language so 
racy, his voice rang so clear, his elocution was so complete. 
On all subjects his mind seemed to be instructed, and his 
opinions formed. He flung out a result in a few words; he 
solved with a phrase some deep problem that men muse over 
for years. He said many things that were strange, yet they 
immediately appeared to be true. Then, without the slightest 
air of pretension or parade, he seemed to know everybody as 
well as everything. Monarchs, statesmen, authors, adven- 
turers, of all descriptions and of all climes, if their names 
occurred in the conversation, he described them in an epi- 
grammatic sentence, or revealed their precise position, 
character, calibre, by a curt dramatic trait. All this, too, 
without any excitement of manner; on the contrary, with 
repose amounting almost to nonchalance. If his address had 
any fault in it, it was rather a deficiency of earnestness. A 
slight spirit of mockery played over his speech even when you 
deemed him most serious ; you were startled by his sudden 
transitions from profound thought to poignant sarcasm. A 
very singular freedom from passion and prejudice on every 
topic on which they treated, might be some compensation for 
this want of earnestness, perhaps was its consequence. 

The stranger teaches Coningsby to have faith in the 
divine influence of individual character and in the power 
of the creative mind, dispensing with experience, to 
achieve greatness in youth. Almost everything that is 


great has, he asserts, been done by youth. For life, 
indeed, in general ' there is but one decree : Youth is a 
blunder ; Manhood a struggle ; Old Age a regret.' But 
though youth itself is not genius, genius when young is 
divine. Why, the greatest captains of ancient and 
modern times both conquered Italy at five-and-twenty ; 
Gaston de Foix at Ravenna and Conde at Rocroy were 
only twenty-two ; Innocent III. and Leo X. were both 
Popes at thirty-seven ; Ignatius Loyola and John Wesley 
both worked with young brains ; Pascal, the greatest of 
Frenchmen, Raphael, and Byron, all died at thirty-seven ; 
Richelieu at thirty-one was Secretary of State ; Pitt and 
Bolingbroke were both Ministers before other men left off 
cricket. The history of heroes, in fact, is the history of 
youth, and the way to be a hero is to believe in the 
heroic ; but when Coningsby remarks that the stranger's 
own actions should in that case be heroic, he receives the 
reply : ' Action is not for me ; I am of that faith that the 
Apostles professed before they followed their Master.' 

At Beaumanoir we have a picture of high life at its 
best — grace, beauty, and refinement, dignity and repose, 
charity and a strong sense of social and public duty. 
Here we make acquaintance with the daughters of the 
house. Lady Theresa Sydney and her married sister Lady 
Everingham, one of those fascinating women of society 
whom we find in Disraeli's novels — light, airy, ultra- 
feminine, with wit, spirit, and breeding, and a spice of 
delicious mockery. 

Lady Everingham thoroughly understood the art of con- 
versation, which, indeed, consists of the exercise of two fine 
qualities. You must originate, and you must sympathise ; 
you must possess at the same time the habit of communi- 
cating and the habit of listening. The union is rather rare, 
but irresistible. Lady Everingham was not a celebrated 
beauty, but she was something infinitely more delightful, a 
captivating woman. There were combined in her, qualities 
not commonly met together, great vivacity of mind with great 
grace of manner. Her words sparkled and her movements 

208 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

Among the incidents of Coningsby's visit is an expe- 
dition to St. Genevieve,! the neighbouring home of 
Eustace Lyle,^ a young and wealthy Roman Catholic, in 
whom we see again Disraeli's feeling for the 'ancient 
faith.' The Roman Catholic Church attracted him not 
only as it has attracted so many others, by an appeal to 
his romantic instincts, but also, it would appear, in its 
political aspect, as the thing most opposed to Whiggery. 
Eustace Lyle, though his father had been galled by 
political exclusion into allying himself with the Whig 
party, has not forgotten that it was the fall of the Papacy 
in England that founded the Whig aristocracy ; but when 
he looks about for an alternative he sees nothing but the 
barren and unhappy cross-breed of Conservatism, a party 
' whose rule it is to consent to no change until it is 
clamorously called for, and then instantly to yield ; ' which 
treats our institutions as we do our pheasants, preserving 
only to destroy them. Lyle, we are expressly told, is one 
of the three people who do most to influence the ripening 
mind of the hero. 

Coningsby had been told by the mysterious stranger 
at the inn that the age of ruins was past, and had been 
asked if he had seen Manchester ; and he had also been 
told that 'adventures are to the adventurous.' To 
Manchester he accordingly goes on his way from 
Beaumanoir to Coningsby Castle, where his grandfather 
expects him ; and there for several days he devotes himself 
to the wonders of industry and machinery. Among other 
things, he visits the model factory of Millbank, and makes 
the acquaintance of the father and beautiful young sister 
of his Eton friend Oswald. The elder Millbank has his 
own reasons for hating Lord Monmouth, and he has also 
peculiar opinions about the aristocracy as a whole, which 
he expounds to the astonished Coningsby. The English 
aristocracy has, he points out, no special quality to mark 
it off from other classes ; it is not richer, better informed, 
wiser, or more distinguished for public or private virtue, 

1 Garendon Towers. ^ Ambrose Lisle Phillips ; vide p. 195. 


than the class to which Millbank himself belongs. It 
cannot even claim birth as a ground of distinction ; 
Millbank has never heard of a peer with an ancient lineage. 
The Wars of the Roses made an end of the Norman Barons, 
and the three main sources of the existing peerage of 
England, and in his opinion disgraceful ones, are ' the 
spoliation of the Church, the open and flagrant sale of 
honours by the elder Stuarts, and the boroughmongering 
of our own times.' Certainly Disraeli cannot be accused of 
flattering in this novel, or in the next, as we shall see, 
the class of which he aspired to be the political leader. 

At Coningsby Castle, to which we now proceed, we are 
shown indeed a side of aristocratic life in which Disraeli 
finds scope for some of his most effective satire — grandeur 
without heart or soul, ostentatious luxury, riot and con- 
fusion, 'nothing of the sweet order of a country life,' a 
scene in which Coningsby has constantly to practise the 
lesson he has lived long enough to learn, that it is unwise 
to wish to have everything explained. Here he finds 
abundant food for the thoughts that are fermenting in 
the depths of his mind, and the fermentation is stimulated 
by his encountering again the stranger of the forest inn, 
whom he now learns to know by the name of Sidonia. 
Sidonia is a Hebrew of immense fortune, in the prime of 
youthful manhood and with an athletic frame which 
sickness has never tried ; affable and gracious, but, though 
unreserved in manner, impenetrable beneath the surface ; 
and yet with a rare gift of expression, and an intellect 
that, matured by long meditation, and assisted by that 
absolute freedom from prejudice which is the compen- 
satory possession of a man without a country,' enables 
him to fathom, as it were by intuition, the depth of 
every question, however difficult or profound. 

Sidonia had exhausted all the sources of human knowledge ; 
he was master of the learning of every nation, of all tongues 
dead or living, of every literature, Western and Oriental. He 
had pursued the speculations of science to their last term, and 
had himself illustrated them by observation and experiment. 

VOL. II — P 

210 CONINGSBY [chai>. vu 

He had lived in all orders of society, had viewed every com- 
bination of nature and of art, and had observed man under 
every phasis of civilization. He had even studied him in the 
wilderness. The influence of creeds and laws, manners, cus- 
toms, traditions, in all their diversities, had been subjected to 
his personal scrutiny. 

Sidonia, in fact, is a type of pure intellect, and he has 
one great deficiency for which this prepares us. He is a 
man without affections — not, indeed, heartless, for he is 
susceptible of deep emotions, and capable of great and 
unostentatious acts of kindness. But the individual 
never touched him ; woman is to him a toy, man a 

The lot the most precious to man, and which a beneficent 
Providence has made not the least common ; to find in another 
heart a perfect and profound sympathy ; to unite his existence 
with one who could share all his joys, soften all his sorrows, 
aid him in all his projects, respond to all his fancies, counsel 
him in his cares, and support him in his perils ; make life 
charming by her charms, interesting by her intelligence, and 
sweet by the vigilant variety of her tenderness ; to find your 
life blessed by such an influence, and to feel that your influence 
can bless such a life : this lot, the most divine of divine gifts, 
that power and even fame can never rival in its delights, all 
this nature had denied to Sidonia. 

Sidonia's function in the novel is to educate Coningsby, 
who in his turn is to educate the New Generation. He 
teaches Coningsby to look for the future of England in 
what is more powerful than laws and institutions — in the 
national character ; and to see the menace to her position 
rather in class hostility and other signs of a decline of 
the national character than in those more obvious changes 
of political institutions to which it is the fashion of the 
age to ascribe undue importance. How are the elements 
of the nation to be again blended together ? Not by 
new dispositions of political power, nor even by insistence 
on those economic causes of which so much is heard, but 
which are always secondary in their operation, Since the 
peace there has been in England an attempt to reconstruct 

1844] SIDONIA 211 

society on a purely rational basis, a basis of material 
motives, the principle of utility. It has failed, and was 
bound to fail, for mankind is governed, not by reason, but 
by imagination. 

' We are not indebted to the Reason of man for any of the 
great achievements which are the landmarks of human action 
and human progress. It was not Reason that besieged Troy ; 
it was not Reason that sent forth tlie Saracen from the Desert 
to conquer the world ; that inspired the Crusades ; that insti- 
tuted the Monastic orders ; it was not Reason that produced 
the Jesuits ; above all, it was not Reason that created the 
French Revolution. Man is only truly great when he acts 
from the passions ; never irresistible but when he appeals to 
the imagination. Even Mormon counts more votaries than 

'And you think, then, that as Imagination once subdued 
the State, Imagination may now save it ? ' 

' Man is made to adore and to obey : but if you will not 
command him, if you give him nothing to worship, he will 
fashion his own divinities, and find a chieftain in his own 

' But where can we find faith in a nation of sectaries ? 
Who can feel loyalty to a sovereign of Downing Street ? ' 

* I speak of the eternal principles of human nature, you 
answer me with the passing accidents of the hour. Sects rise 
and sects disappear. Where are the Fifth-Monarchy men ? 
England is governed by Downing Street ; once it was governed 
by Alfred and Elizabeth.' 

In another famous chapter Sidonia discourses on the 
gifts and achievements of his race, and pleads for their 
emancipation. He is no political sentimentalist, and to 
illiberality as such he has not the sliglitest objection if 
it be an element of power ; but he thinks it impolitic in 
the last degree to make it the interest of a powerful class 
to oppose the institutions under which they live. The 
Jews as a race are monarchical in sentiment, deeply 
religious, and essentially Tories ; yet their present dis- 
abilities drive them into the same ranks as the levellers 
and latitudinarians, and every generation they must be- 
come more powerful and more dangerous to the society 
which provokes their hostility. 

212 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

'Do you think that the quiet humdrum persecution of a 
decorous representative of an English university can crush 
those who have successively baffled the Pharaohs, Nebuchad- 
nezzar, Rome, and the Feudal ages ? The fact is, you cannot 
destroy a pure race of the Caucasian organisation. It is a 
physiological fact ; a simple law of nature, which has baffled 
Egyptian and Assyrian Kings, Roman Emperors, and Christian 
Inquisitors. No penal laws, no physical tortures, can effect 
that a superior race should be absorbed in an inferior or be 
destroyed by it, . . . 

' Pure races of Caucasus may be persecuted, but they cannot 
be despised, except by the brutal ignorance of some mongrel 
breed, that brandishes fagots and howls extermination, but is 
itself exterminated without persecution, by that irresistible law 
of Nature which is fatal to curs.' 

In every great intellectual movement in Europe the 
Jews have played and play a principal part. The first 
Jesuits were Jews ; that mysterious Russian diplomacy 
which so alarms Western Europe is organised by Jews ; 
Jews almost monopolise the professorial chairs of Ger- 
many, and are there preparing that mighty revolution 
of which so little is known in England as yet, but which 
will, in fact, be a second and greater Reformation. Ne- 
ander is a Jew ; Wehl is a Jew. Jews are to be found 
among the leading Ministers in nearly every state in 
Europe. Soult is a Jew; so also were some of his most 
famous colleagues among Napoleon's Marshals — Mas- 
sena, for example. All modern philosophy springs from 
Spinoza; and if the Jews cannot in the present show 
great poets or great orators, they have had them in the 
past. To-day their passionate and creative genius, the 
nearest link to Divinity, debarred by human tyranny from 
developing in other fields, has found in music, which is 
almost an exclusive Jewish privilege, a medium for its 
expression. In the history of the lords of melody you 
find the annals of Hebrew genius; and 'almost every 
great composer,^ skilled musician, almost every voice that 

1 To a generation for which Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer were the great 
lights above the musical horizon, this statement may have seemed less 
astonishing than it seems to us. Joachim, who was a pure Jew, and as proud 
of his race as Disraeli himself, could speak with more authority ; and in 


ravishes you with its transporting strains, springs from 
our tribes.' 

From Coningsby Castle we pass to Cambridge, where 
we see Coningsby again surrounded by his Eton friends. 
At the end of their first year came the general election 
that followed the death of William IV., and they had the 
satisfaction of helping to win a great victory for the Con- 
servative cause in the borough of Cambridge, where its 
champion was an old Etonian. On the day the member 
was chaired they met in Coningsby's rooms to talk over 
their triumph. 

*By Jove!' said the panting Buckhurst, throwing himself 
on the sofa, ' it was well done ; never was anything better 
done. An immense triumph ! The greatest triumph the Con- 
servative Cause has had. And yet/ he added, laughing, ' if 
any fellow were to ask me what the Conservative Cavise is, I 
am sure I should not know what to say.' 

'Why, it is the cause of our glorious institutions,' said 
Coningsby. ' A Crown robbed of its prerogatives ; a Church 
controlled by a commission ; and an Aristocracy that does not 

' Under whose genial influence the order of the Peasantry, 
" a country's pride," has vanished from the face of the land,' 
said Henry Sydney, ' and is succeeded by a race of serfs, who 
are called labourers, and who burn ricks.' 

'Under which,' continued Coningsby, 'the Crown has 
become a cipher ; the Church a sect ; the Nobility drones ; 
and the People drudges.' 

' It is the great constitutional cause,' said Lord Vere, ' that 
refuses everything to opposition ; yields everything to agita- 
tion ; conservative in Parliament, destructive out-of-doors ; 
that has no objection to any change provided only it be 
effected by unauthorised means.' 

'The first public association of men,' said Coningsby, 'who 
have worked for an avowed end without enunciating a single 

' And who have established political infidelity throughout 
the land,' said Lord Henry. 

conversation with Sir Charles Stanford he once commented on the curious 
fact that, while the .Jews had great names in literature, science, and phi- 
losophy, music, for which in a sense their gift was so exceptional, 'did 
not possess one Jewish composer of the absolutely first rank' {Studies 
and Memories, by C. V. Stanford, p. 131). 

214 COI^INGSBY [chap, vii 

' By Jove ! ' said Buckhurst, ' what infernal fools we have 
made ourselves this last week ! ' 

' Nay,' said Coningsby, smiling, ' it was our last schoolboy 
weakness. Floreat Etona, under all circumstances.' 

' I certainly, Coningsby,' said Lord Vere, ' shall not assume 
the Conservative Cause, instead of the cause for which 
Hampden died in the field, and Sydney on the scaffold.' 

* The cause for which Hampden died in the field and Sydney 
on the scaffold,' said Coningsby, ' was the cause of the Venetian 

' How, how ? ' said Buckhurst. 

'I repeat it,' said Coningsby. 'The great object of the 
Whig leaders in England from the first movement under 
Hampden to the last most successful one in 1688, was to 
establish in England a high aristocratic republic on the model 
of the Venetian, then the study and admiration of all specu- 
lative politicians. . . .' 

'The Whigs are worn out,' said Vere, 'Conservatism is a 
sham, and Radicalism is pollution.' 

A vacation visit by Coningsby to his grandfather in 
Paris gives an opportunity for the introduction of those 
pictures of Parisian society to which allusion has already 
been made. In Paris Coningsby meets again, and falls 
in love with, Edith Millbank, his Eton friend's sister, now 
grown into a beautiful woman; but though his love is 
returned, the feud between Lord Monmouth and Mr. 
Millbank is a barrier. This feud is deeper than ever, for 
Millbank has just succeeded in thwarting the haughty 
noble in some of his most cherished ambitions, snatching 
from him a Naboth's vineyard close to Coningsby Castle, 
and winning from his creature Rigby the representation 
of the neighbouring borough. The lovers exchange vows, 
but Coningsby is dismissed by Millbank; and presently 
Lord Monmouth, ignorant of all that has happened, sends 
for his grandson, in anticipation of a general election, to 
arrange that he should come forward as Millbank's 
opponent. The scene that follows between the old gen- 
eration and the new is one of the best in the book: 

' You are most kind, you are always most kind to me, dear 
sir,' said Coningsby, in a hesitating tone, and with an air of 


great embarrassment, 'but, in truth, I have no wish to enter 

' What ? ' said Lord Monmouth. 

' I feel that I am not yet sufficiently prepared for so great 
a responsibility as a seat in the House of Commons,' said 

* Responsibility ! ' said Lord Monmouth, smiling. ' What 
responsibility is there ? . . . All you have got to do is to vote 
with your party. . . .' 

' You mean, of course, by that term what is understood by 
the Conservative party.' 
' Of course ; our friends.' 

* I am sorry,' said Coningsby, rather pale, but speaking with 
firmness, ' I am sorry that I could not support the Conservative 

' By !' exclaimed Lord Monmouth, starting in his seat, 

'some woman has got hold of him, and made him a Whig !' 

' No, my dear grandfather . . . nothing of the kind, I assure 
you. No person can be more anti-Whig.' 

' I don't know what you are driving at, sir,' said Lord 
Monmouth, in a hard, dry tone. . . . 

' W^hat I mean to say is, that I have for a long time looked 
upon the Conservative party as a body who have betrayed 
their trust. . . .' 

' Well, between ourselves, I am quite of the same opinion. 
. . . But what is the use of lamenting the past? Peel is the 
only man ; suited to the times and all that ; at least we must 
say so, and try to believe so ; we can't go back. And it is 
our own fault that we have let the chief power out of the hands 
of our own order. It was never thought of in the time of your 
great-grandfather, sir. And if a commoner were for a season 
permitted to be the nominal Premier to do the detail, there 
was always a secret committee of great 1688 nobles to give 
him his instructions.' 

*I should be very sorry to see secret committees of great 
1688 nobles again,' said Coningsby. 

' Then what the devil do you want to see ? ' said Lord 

' Political faith,' said Coningsby, ' instead of political 

' Hem ! ' said Lord Monmouth. 

* Before I support Conservative principles,' continued 
Coningsby, 'I merely wish to be informed what those 
principles aim to conserve. . . .' 

*A11 this is vastly fine,' said Lord Monmouth; 'but I see 
no means by which I can attain my object but by supporting 
Peel. After all, what is the end of all parties and all jjolitics ? 

216 CONLNGSBY [chap, vii 

To gain your object. I want to turn our coronet into a ducal 
one, and to get your grandmother's barony called out of 
abeyance in your favour. It is impossible that Peel can 
refuse me. ... It gratifies me to hear you admired and to 
learn your success. All I want now is to see you in Parlia- 
ment. A man should be in Parliament early. There is a 
sort of stiffness about every man, no matter what may be his 
talents, who enters Parliament late in life ; and now, fortu- 
nately, the occasion offers. You will go down on Friday ; 
feed the notabilities well ; speak out ; praise Peel ; abuse 
O'Connell and the ladies of the Isedchamber; anathematise 
all waverers ; say a good deal about Ireland ; stick to the Irish 
Registration Bill, that's a good card ; and, above all, my dear 
Harry, don't spare that fellow Millbauk. Remember, in turn- 
ing him out you not only gain a vote for the Conservative cause 
and our coronet, but you crush my foe. Spare nothing for that 
object ; I count on you, boy.' 

' 1 should grieve to be backward in anything that concerned 
your interest or yoiir honour, sir,' said Couingsby, with an air 
of great embarrassment. 

' I am sure you would, I am sure you would,' said Lord 
Monmouth, in a tone of some kindness. . . . 

' But I claim for my convictions, my dear grandfather, a 
generous tolerance.' 

' I can't follow you, sir,' said Lord Monmouth, again in his 
hard tone. ... ' You go with your family like a gentleman ; 
you are not to consider your opinions, like a philosopher or a 
political adventurer.' 

' Yes, sir,' said Coningsby, with animation, ' but men going 
with their families like gentlemen, and losing sight of every 
principle on which the society of this country ought to be 
established produced the Reform Bill.' 

< D the Reform Bill ! ' said Lord Monmouth ; ' if the 

Duke had not quarrelled with Lord Grey on a coal committee, 
we should never have had the Reform Bill. . . .' 

' You are in as great peril now as you were in 1830,' said 

*No, no, no,' said Lord Monmouth; 'the Tory party is 
organised now ; they will not catch us napping again : these 
Conservative Associations have done the business.' 

' But what are they organised for ? ' said Coningsby. ' At 
the best to turn out the Whigs. And when you have turned 
out the Whigs, what then ? . . . What we want, sir, is not to 
fashion new dukes and furbish up old baronies, but to establish 
great principles which may maintain the realm and secure the 
happiness of the people. Let me see authority once more 
honoured ; a solemn reverence again the habit of our lives ; let 


me see property acknowledging, as in the old days of faith, 
that labour is his twin brother, and that the essence of all 
tenure is the performance of duty ; let results such as these 
be brought about, and let me participate, however feebly, in 
the great fulfilment, and public life then indeed becomes a 
noble career, and a seat in Parliament an enviable distinction.' 
* I tell you what it is, Harry,' said Lord Monmouth, very drily, 
' members of this family may tliink as they like, but they must 
act as I please. . . . You will [behave], I doubt not, like a man 
of sense,' he added, looking at Coningsby with a glance such 
as he had never before encountered, ' who is not prepared to 
sacrifice all the objects of life for the pursuit of some 
fantastical puerilities.' 

Coningsby remains firm in his resolution not to contest 
an election with Edith's father, and not long afterwards 
Lord Monmouth suddenly dies, leaving the bulk of his 
vast fortune to an illegitimate daughter whom Coningsby 
has befriended in ignorance of their relationship. The 
disinherited grandson is consoled by Sidonia, who treats 
wealth with a disdain not easy for a millionaire, but easier 
for Disraeli in spite of his extravagant taste for splendour 
and display. Sidonia insists that mere possessions are 
one of the smallest elements in happiness, that Coningsby's 
loss of his inheritance is only a conventional misfortune, 
not a real calamity. Coningsby is now free; that is to 
say — and here we may suppose that Disraeli speaks from 
the heart — free if he is not in debt. There are two careers 
between which he can choose. One is diplomacy ; but 
'a diplomatist is a phantom.' 'I always look upon 
diplomatists as the Hebrews of politics ; without country, 
political creeds, popular convictions, that strong reality 
of existence which pervades the career of an eminent 
citizen in a free and great country.' There remains that 
other and nobler career, the Bar, and Coningsby resolves 
to try for the Great Seal. 

In the solitude of his chambers, and away from the 
sustaining influence of Sidonia, he lapses into despair, 
but a walk through the ' mighty streets ' restores his 

218 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

* Whether he inherited or forfeited fortunes, what was it to 
the passing throng ? They would not share his splendor, or 
his luxury, or his comfort. But a word from his lip, a thought 
from his brain, expressed at the right time, at the right place, 
might turn their hearts, might influence their passions, might 
change their opinions, might affect their destiny. Nothing 
is great but the personal. As civilisation advances, the 
accidents of life become each day less important. The power 
of man, his greatness and his glory, depend on essential 
qualities. Brains every day become more precious than 
blood. You must give men new ideas, you must teach them 
new words, you must modify their manners, you must change 
their laws, you must root out prejudices, subvert convictions, 
if you wish to be great. Greatness no longer depends on 
rentals, the world is too rich ; nor on pedigrees, the world is 
too knowing.' 

'The greatness of this city destroys my misery,' said 
Coningsby, ' and my genius shall conquer its greatness ! ' 

This conviction of power in the midst of despair was a 
revelation of intrinsic strength. It is indeed the test of a 
creative spirit. From that moment all petty fears for an 
ordinary future quitted him. He felt that he must be pre- 
pared for great sacrifices, for infinite suffering ; that there 
must devolve on him a bitter inheritance of obscurity, struggle, 
envy, and hatred, vulgar prejudice, base criticism, petty 
hostilities, but the dawn would break, and the hour arrive, 
when the welcome morning hymn of his success and his fame 
would sound and be re-echoed. 

From such thoughts, we may believe, Disraeli many a 
time himself drew consolation in the darker moments of 
his career ; but he is not content to leave his hero to live 
by fortitude alone. In the midst of the general election 
of 1841, in which all his friends are candidates, and which 
was to be an epoch in his own life, Coningsby finds himself 
a solitary student in the Temple, cut off from the chance 
of action. But suddenly his prospects change, and for- 
tune, which has been buffeting him, begins to shower her 
favours. Millbank, coming to a better understanding of 
things which he had misconstrued, retires from the contest 
in which he is engaged with Kigby, and nominates 
Coningsby, who is triumphantly elected. He also bestows 
on Coningsby the hand of his daughter, and provides for 
the happy pair an ample establishment. Presently, more- 


over, the frail and unhappy girl who had inherited the 
bulk of Lord Monmouth's vast wealth dies, and bequeathes 
the whole of it to Coningsby. Thus overladen, in Disraeli's 
customary manner, with all the goods of fortune, he is left 
with his friends on the threshold of public life. 

Will they maintain in august assemblies and high places 
the great truths which, in study and in solitude, they have 
embraced? Or will their courage exhaust itself in the 
struggle, their enthusiasm evaporate before hollow-hearted 
ridicule, their generous impulses yield with a vulgar catas- 
trophe to the tawdry temptations of a low ambition? Will 
their skilled intelligence subside into being the adroit tool of 
a corrupt party? Will Vanity confound their fortunes, or 
Jealousy wither their sympathies ? Or will they remain brave, 
single, and true; refuse to bow before shadows and worship 
phrases ; sensible of the greatness of their position, recognise 
the greatness of their duties j denounce to a perplexed and 
disheartened world the frigid theories of a generalising age 
that have destroyed the individuality of man, and restore the 
happiness of their country by believing in their own energies, 
and daring to be great ? 

Coningshy can be regarded either as a work of art or as 
the manifesto of Young England. The attempt to dis- 
engage the politics from the story will best be reserved 
till we are in a position to deal with Sybil at the same 
time ; but Young England has its place, and a most im- 
portant place, in the scheme of the novel even as a work of 
art. ' Some serious creed, however misty and indefinite, 
is required,' it has been well said,^ 'to raise the mere 
mocker into a genuine satirist ;' and just such a creed 
Young England supplies. Disraeli in Coningshy has given 
us a picture of the great world of the thirties, painted 
with all his feeling for the gorgeous and spectacular, and 
a gallery of political portraits painted with perfect 
insight, sympathy, and comprehension. He has repro- 
duced in this gallery every type that is mean or ridiculous 
in politics : the Tapers and Tadpoles ; the ' twelve-hun- 
dred-a-yearers'; the candidates who present themselves 

1 By Sir Leslie Stephen. 

220 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

to the Liberals of Darlford : ' Mr. Donald Macpherson 
Macfarlaiie, who would only pay the legal expenses — he 
was soon despatched ; Mr. Gingerly Browne, of Jermyn 
Street, the younger son of a baronet, who would go as 
far as X 1,000 provided the seat was secured ; Mr. Juggins, 
a distiller, X 2,000 man, but would not agree to any annual 
subscriptions ; Sir Baptist Placid, vague about expendi- 
ture, but repeatedly declaring that " there could be no 
difficulty on that head " ; he, however, had a moral objec- 
tion to subscribing to the races, and that was a great 
point at Darlford;' the Lord Fitzboobys, the Jawster 
Sharps, down even to the Bully Blucks and Magog Wraths, 
the condottierileaders of the Liberal and Conservative mobs. 
All these he renders with the discernment of a master, and 
the coolest detachment in the presence of every variety 
of knavery and baseness. But he has the defects of his 
qualities, and just as his love of splendour often lures him 
into meretriciousness, so his detachment is sometimes 
carried to the point of flippancy, or even cynicism. He 
was, however, no mere cynic, and as the total effect of 
the picture is not meretricious, but stately and imposing, 
so it is not flippant or cynical, but serious and inspiring. 
Nothing that is ignoble in politics is evaded, but the 
ignoble is never treated in the spirit of the photographic 
realist, and we have always the romantic ideal of Young 
England to serve as a resting-place for faith and a centre 
of illumination, and to give harmony and elevation to the 
picture as a whole. Bad as things are, the lofty enthu- 
siasm of the New Generation is to set everything right. 

If the creed of Young England had been less vague and 
shadowy, if the purpose of the novel had been political 
in any crude or narrowly partisan sense, the result must 
have been failure from the point of view of art. But 
Young England was less a party than a spirit in the air, 
or at most a revival of Disraeli's early dream, the dream 
that haunts the youth of every generation, of a party 
truly national rising above all factious aims and limita- 
tions. The wisdom which Sidonia pours out to Coningsby 



is not politics at all, or the politics of the Empyrean in its 
detachment, not only from party, but even from nation- 
ality and from everytliing but race. To this serene 
wisdom Coningsby and his friends add a wisdom of their 
own in which we can distinguish two different elements. 
One is the boyish sentimentalism, the taste for mere 
ritual, the maypoles and church architecture, for which 
Smythe, or more often Manners, is really responsible, and 
which Disraeli, we may believe, never took very seriously. 
The other is pure Disraeli, the Disraeli we already know 
in the Vindication and his speeches, with his peculiar 
political creed compounded in equal measure of Tory and 
Radical elements, and his comparative indifference to 
the conventional party divisions. Thus, the politics of 
Younor Eng-land are so broad and disinterested as to save 
the novel from all suspicion of mere party pamphleteering. 
From his central point of view the author surveys the 
scene with judicial impartiality, and awards praise and 
blame with due discrimination. He was depicted in 
Punch as the infant Hercules strangling, one in either 
hand, the twin serpents Whig and Tory ; and certainly 
Whigs and Tories are alike made to suffer under the lash 
of his satire. 

The politics as a rule are woven so deftly into the 
texture of the story as not to be obtrusive, though some- 
times, especially when Coningsby is speaking, they 
degenerate into a lecture, and one feels that the longer 
digressions by the author represent a gritty residuum of 
unassimilated matter. For all his sense of humour, 
Disraeli can be over-solemn when his pet ideas are in 
question ; but he has a curious and refreshing habit that 
atones for such transgressions. If he has no self-conscious 
fears of making himself absurd, he is always ready to 
anticipate the laugh against himself. We see this in the 
dialogue between Lord Monmouth and Coningsby given 
above ; and we see it again in the account of Sir Joseph 
Wallinger's simple-minded perplexity at the views of the 
New Generation, or in the sly allusion to a speech by 

222 CONINGSBY [chap, vii 

Buckhurst ' denouncing the Venetian constitution, to the 
amazement of several thousand persons, apparently not a 
little terrified by this unknown danger.' 

As regards the principal characters, Coningsby himself 
is not altogether successful. He is hardly a living moving 
figure, and at times he smacks both of the prig and the 
bore. Little attempt is made to preserve the resemblance 
to Smythe, who was very far from being either. Sir 
Leslie Stephen has remarked that Disraeli's youthful 
heroes in his early novels are creative, and that in the 
later they tend to become merely receptive. We see the 
change in Oonmgshy^ and the explanation is that the nom- 
inal hero has ceased to be the real. Coningsby derives 
his wisdom from Sidonia, and Sidonia, not Coningsby, is 
in fact the central figure in the whole intellectual move- 
ment of the novel. Sidonia is said to have been suggested 
by a member of the Rothschild family, and the resem- 
blance in many points is too obvious to have been acci- 
dental ; he is, as it were, an ideal Rothschild, a Rothschild 
equipped not only with great wealth, but with a pene- 
trating and all-embracing intellectual vision. Sidonia is 
indeed a god, and perhaps as near to the deity of Disraeli's 
religion as we are ever likely to get. There is in him, of 
course, much of Disraeli himself. Like Disraeli, and un- 
like the Rothschilds, he is of the stock of the Sephardim, 
the descendant of the ' Nuevos Christianos' of Arragon ; 
and when we are told that he ' observed everything, but 
avoided serious discussion,' and ' if you pressed him for 
an opinion took refuge in raillery ' ; or that, at the end of 
a long appeal addressed to him by Rigby, ' he only bowed 
his head and said " Perhaps," and then, turning to his 
neighbour, inquired whether birds were plentiful in 
Lancashire,' we recognise authentic traits from the man- 
ner of his creator. 

Henry Sydney and Buckhurst are much more real and 
true to life than Coningsby. Lord Monmouth is finely 
conceived and admirably drawn, and is a far more 
interesting and attractive figure than either his original 


or Thackeray's Lord Steyne. Heartless, self-indulgent and 
devoid of scruple as he is, he has a certain grandeur of his 
own as the type of Sulla-like patrician, arrogant but digni- 
fied, sublimely selfish, but also self-sufficient, and alike in 
good and evil fortune undaunted in his bearing. There 
has been no keener or more effective satirist than Disraeli 
of the vices and follies of the aristocracy which he so much 
admired ; and that partly because of his very admiration. 
Sympathy gave him insight, comprehension, and tolerance, 
and he remains cool and collected where Thackeray, for 
instance, is apt to go off in a sputter of moral indignation 
which defeats its own purpose. We see in Rigby how 
Disraeli's own work is marred where animus enters. As 
a picture of the sycophant, Rigby is perhaps overdrawn, 
and is certainly overdrawn as a portrait of Croker. 
That very unimpressive, it may be disagreeable, but from 
all that appears quite honourable man, had the bad 
fortune to incur the bitter enmity of two such opposite 
men of genius as Disraeli and Macaulay. Macaulay was 
so obviously extravagant in his injustice that it has 
recoiled upon himself. Disraeli's animosity, of which we 
have seen the origin, was much less violent, but violent 
enough in contrast to his usual cool detachment to lead 
him into something that resembles an artistic blunder. 

Of the women, Edith Millbank is not altogether a 
success. Lady Theresa Sydney is entirely uninteresting, 
but Lady Everingham, her sister, is the best woman in 
the book. In a different style, Mrs. Guy Flouncey, who 
is an anticipation of Becky Sharp, is very good, too. 

She came [to Coningsby Castle] with a wardrobe which, in 
point of variety, fancy, and fashion, never was surpassed. . . . 
At first the fine ladies never noticed her, or only stared at 
her over their shoulders ; everywhere sounded, in suppressed 
whispers, the fatal question, 'Who is she?' After dinner 
they formed always into polite groups, from which Mrs. Guy 
Flouncey was invariably excluded. ... It was, indeed, 
rather difficult work the first few days. . . . But Mrs. 
Guy Flouncey . . . had confidence in herself, her quick- 
ness, her ever ready accomplishments, and her practised 

•224: CONINGSBY [chap, vn 

powers of attraction. And she was right. Slie was always 
sure of an ally the moment the gentlemen appeared. . . . 
Somehow or other, before a week was passed, JVIrs. Guy 
Flouncey seemed the soul of everything, was always sur- 
rounded by a cluster of admirers, and with what are called 
' the best men ' ever ready to ride with her, dance with her, 
act with her, or fall at her feet. The fine ladies found it 
absolutely necessary to thaw ; they began to ask her qiiestions 
after dinner. Mrs. Guy Flouncey only wanted an opening. 
She was an adroit flatterer, with a temper imperturbable, and 
gifted with a ceaseless energy of conferring slight obligations. 
She lent them patterns for new fashions, in all whicli mysteries 
she was very versant ; and what with some gentle glozing and 
some gay gossip, sugar for their tongues and salt for their tails, 
she contrived pretty well to catch them all. 

Disraeli is usually happier in his slighter sketches of 
women than in his more elaborate pictures. He begins 
well with the Princess Lucretia, who ' generally succeeded 
in conveying an impression to those she addressed that 
she had never seen them before, did not care to see them 
now, and never wished to see them again ; and all this, 
too, with an air of great courtesy ' ; but her character 
when developed passes into melodrama. 

The habit of Parliamentary speaking has seldom a good 
effect on literary style, and seven years in the House of 
Commons had not improved Disraeli's. He rarely rises in 
Coningshy or the subsequent novels to the highest level, 
for instance, of Contarini Fleming. There is less simplic- 
ity and directness, more affectation, and, in the matter of 
solecisms, more carelessness than ever. It is one of the 
many contradictions in Disraeli's mind and character 
that, in spite of his strong grasp of fact, his keen sense of 
the ridiculous, and his intolerance of cant, he never could 
quite distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit 
either in language or sentiment. His taste for fine writing 
in an artificial style shows no diminution, and his displays 
of mawkish sentimentalism, as, for instance, in the love 
passages between Coningsby and Edith, jar on us the 
more as they no longer have the excuse of youth and 
inexperience. On the other hand, years and maturity of 


mind have developed that pregnant and aphoristic quality 
which was in his style from the first, and is one of its 
greatest merits. Disraeli may not be a great moralist, 
but he is a great master of the art of life in a less lofty 
sense, and from every chapter of Coningsby it would be 
possible to cull illuminating maxims on this lower plane 
of wisdom. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Thursday [May.] 
Lord Ponsonby Ms so ' enchanted with Sidonia ' that we 
are all to dine together at the Lionel [Rothschild]s' on Sunday. 
There is no particular news except that Bradshaw, the last of 
the school of Brummell, has read a book, and it is called 
Coningsby. Twice on our way to Longmans in Paternoster 
Row we were congratulated. Once by Tom Jones [?], who 
almost embraced M. A. ; which she returned, although she 
denies it. He was ' not surprised to find in Paternoster Kow 
the most successful author of the day.' 

[June 13.] 
Yesterday we dined with B. Wall, and had a most exquisite 
dinner in a most refined and sumptuous house, and with the 
most charming society. I sat next to Sydney Smith, who 
was delightful : we had besides Lady Morley and Luttrell and 
Labouchere and G. Smythe and Punch Greville ^ and Lord 
Melbourne. I don't remember a more agreeable party ; it 
sprang from Coningsby and from Sydney Smith's wish to make 
my acquaintance. His wife was there, M. A. says a very 
agreeable person, and Lady Stepney. 

Coningsby keeps moving — about 40 a day on average. We 
are preparing for a third edition, having only 400 or so on 
hand of the second, and the demand being steady. 

From Henry Hope. 

May 18. 
To tell you how much I admire the story, the style, the 
terrible power of wit and sarcasm . . . would merely be to 
repeat what the newspapers say, but there is besides a spirit 
of daring and chivalry in attacking people who have always 
been deemed bugbears . . . which much delights and refreshes 
me. . . . 

1 Viscount Ponsonby, 1770(?)-1855, a well-known diplomatist, brother 
of Sir William Ponsonby who was killed at Waterloo. 

2 Charles Greville, the diarist. 


22Q CONINGSBY fcnAP. vn 

It diverts me much to hear the comments of our friends. 
'Dreadfully personal!' says one; 'What fun Tadpole and 
Taper are ! ' says Ernest Bruce ; ' How like Fitzbooby is ! ' says 
somebody else ; ' Bonham has not appeared,' says another, 
and if the species ever committed suicide it would be said of 
him. ... I saw Lord Lyndhurst, who appeared to enjoy the 
book beyond measure, and told me of an instance in which 
he had heard Kigby set Lord Eldon right on law and the Duke 
of Wellington on military matters on one day. 

The following reminiscences relating to Croker are 
from a manuscript of Disraeli's written in the sixties : 

In 1849 there was a grand dinner given in Merchant Taylors' 
Hall to inaugurate the new organisation of the ' Protectionist 
Party ' under the leadership of Lord Derby and myself. Tom 
Baring was in the chair. On his right Lord Derby, myself on 
his left, and then there were alternately peers and commoners. 
The Duke of Northumberland, whom I did not then know, 
was to have sate next to me : but his Grace was unwell and 
prevented attending at the last moment. The commoner 
next to his Grace's seat was Mr. Croker. He was requested 
by the directors of the fete to sit up next to me. It was 
rather embarrassing: but Mr. Croker and myself were not 
socially acquainted. I had never seen him since I was a boy. 
Nor was he the person who ought to assume that a character 
in one of my books, which he deemed odious, was intended for 
himself. He behaved like a man of the world : informed me 
that he had had the pleasure of, he hoped, the friendship of my 
excellent father, talked generally about the political situation, 
warmed into anecdote, and made himself agreeable. I 
treated him with great consideration, and spoke enough, but 
not too much, and took care never to break into cordiality, 
which I should have done under ordinary circumstances with 
so eminent a man, met under such conditions. 

When I made my speech after dinner, I observed he nodded 
his head frequently in approbation, and gave other signs of 
sympathy, and perhaps stronger feeling. I thought all this 
on his part a very good performance, and that he had extricated 
himself out of an embarrassing position with dexterity and 
some grace. A year or two afterwards — February, 1851 — I 
had brought forward a great agricultural motion on the 
burthens of land, had rallied great numbers, had been beaten 
by the Government in a full House, by only 15 or 16 votes, or 
even less ; had made a great statement at the commencement 
of the debate which lasted some days, and had concluded by a 
brilliant reply which made much noise at the time, and was 


doubly effective from the capital division that followed. I 
was standing in the hall of the Carlton, which was rather full, 
reading a letter, when a person came up to me and put his 
hand on my arm, and said : ' The speech was the speech of a 
statesman, and the reply was the reply of a wit.' It was 

I was surprised, and murmured something about laudari a 
laudato, but he had vanished. He had too much good taste 
to remain. 

Years after this George Smythe brought me, one morning, 
a letter from Croker, who had long been hopelessly ill, to his 
father. Lord Strangford (Camoens), with whom Croker had 
been at college, and always chums ; and this letter, if it 
meant anything, meant a formal reconciliation with me : it 
seemed even an interview. I remember in the letter this 
passage : ' Why he attacked me I never could discover, and 
know no more the cause than I know the man who shot 
Mrs. Hampden ! ' 

I behaved as kindly as I could under the circumstances : 
but I could not listen to interviews, or reconciliations, or 
explanations. It was too late, and my sensibilities, which 
had [been] played upon in my earlier life, too much required 
nursing. I told George Smythe to manage the result with 
the greatest consideration for Croker's feelings and situation ; 
and there it ended. 

The moral I draw from all this is that men of a certain age 
like the young ones who lick them. I think, now, that Croker 
was quite sincere at the Merchant Taylors'. 


Diverging from the Government 

Though when the session of 1844 began Disraeli had 
already been six years in Parliament, we may doubt 
whether he had yet attained to any high position in the 
favour of the House of Commons. The successes in 
debate which he reported from time to time with so much 
complacency to his sister had failed to produce the 
cumulative effect that might have been expected. He 
had shown qualities that would have won him influence 
and promotion as a Minister, and if he had been taken 
into the Ministry in 1841 progress would have been easy; 
but an open and visible check such as he then received is 
more often than not fatal to a Parliamentary career, and 
in his case recovery was rendered more difficult by the 
dubious reputation which, taking its origin from his early 
political escapades and his affectations of dress and 
manner, still clung to him persistently. Exclusion from 
the Government had the appearance of setting the seal on 
this reputation, and for the moment he seemed to lose 
. /Buch ' )f the ground he had won. 

Nor, in spite of all his gifts, had he yet acquired the 
authentic House of Commons manner. He had courage 
and originality, unbounded cleverness, and that most 
effective weapon — ' dangerous, though most effective,' he 
calls it in Endymion — the power of sarcasm. But all 
these are gifts which require supreme tact for their judicious 
display in Parliament, and in Parliamentary tact he was 



at first a little wanting. Englishmen in general, and the 
House of Commons in particular, hate everything that 
savours of pretentiousness and presumption ; and though 
Disraeli, we may believe, was no more of an egoist than 
many who had greater art in concealing their foible, 
there was an element of pretentiousness and presumption 
in his speeches which the House of Commons resented. 
The oracular manner, which became a positive asset when 
he had reached a high position, tended to delay his ascent. 
He was too didactic in tone, and his cleverness, though 
great, was too ostentatious. It was often amusing, some- 
times impressive ; but, then, he was a man of letters, from 
whom cleverness was to be expected, and as an assembly 
of practical Englishmen the House of Commons knew 
better than to take such a person seriously. 

The House, it has been said, hates a man who makes it 
think. Disraeli had evolved a political philosophy of his 
own, and had been lavish of its wisdom ; but a still greater 
master of political philosophy had learnt by bitter ex- 
perience how little such an instrument profits in Parlia- 
ment, and where it failed in the hands of Burke, Disraeli 
could hardly expect to wield it with success. The very 
qualities which give lasting interest to his early speeches 
probably tended, as with Burke in every period of his 
career, to make them ineffective at the moment of 
delivery. The House of Commons has developed a 
peculiar style of its own, of which exaggerated verbiage 
and a deliberate indirectness are the dominant character- 
istics. But these are qualities which are entirely alien to 
good and lasting literature, and so House of Commons 
speeches, when they have served their immediate purpose, 
are rarely good reading. Peel and Gladstone, who were 
the great exponents of the Parliamentary manner, are 
altogether intolerable in the cold pages of Hansard ; and 
Disraeli himself, when he had once fully acquired that 
manner, becomes much less readable in his speeches in 
the House than in his speeches in the country. 

His best Parliamentary speeches are those of the 


middle period, when the quality of thoughtfulness, the 
breadth of view, and the literary finish which he had 
shown from the first, are combined with ease and freedom 
and an appearance of spontaneity. In the session of 
1844 he seemed suddenly to catch the peculiar intonation 
of Parliamentary debate, and, without sacrificing what 
was best and most characteristic in his own style, to attune 
it completely to the ear of the House of Commons. The 
Irish speech in February, though still a little too didac- 
tic, marked a great advance in Parliamentary manner. 
Occupied with Coningsby^ he was less active than usual in 
the business of the House, only speaking on two other 
occasions of any importance in the course of the session ; 
but the advance was maintained in these subsequent 
efforts, and henceforward his command of the House was 

One fact stands out conspicuously about the three 
speeches of the session : they exhibit a continuous diver- 
gence from the Government. The first, in February, as 
we have seen, was comparatively friendly; the second, in 
April, was bantering in tone, but could hardly be called 
hostile ; the third, in June, was openly rebellious. 
When Peel paid his compliment to the Irish speech in 
February, his sister, Mrs. Dawson, wrote to Mrs. Disraeli : 

I was delighted with my brother's speech, and with no part 
of it more than that in which he alludes to Mr. Disraeli in a 
complimentary strain. I wish very much that the next time 
Mr. Disraeli sees my brother he would put out his hand to 
him. They are both reserved men, and one must make the 
first advance ; the other would accept it most gladly. 

Whether Disraeli's hand would have been accepted 
gladly or not, it seems never to have been offered, and after 
the momentary approach to a better understanding the 
two men began to drift apart again. ' A Parliamentary 
leader who possesses [the faculty of inspiring enthusiasm] 
doubles his majority ; and he who has it not may shroud 
himself in artificial reserve and study with undignified 
arrogance an awkward haughtiness, but he will never- 


theless be as far from controlling the spirit as from capti- 
vating the hearts of his sullen followers." In this sentence 
in Coningsby there was an obvious fling at Peel, though 
his name was not mentioned. But Disraeli was not 
touchy, and the 'artificial reserve' and 'awkward haughti- 
ness ' would have counted for less if they had not been 
supplemented by deeper causes of division. The question 
at issue was more than a mere question of outward de- 
meanour. Where two men have their faces set in oppo- 
site directions divergence is inevitable. 

There was nothing in which Young England was more 
thoroughly in earnest, or that did more to give a wide 
popularity to its ideas, than its devotion to the cause of 
social reform. In this matter Disraeli was no less sincere 
than Manners himself. 

There is no subject [he said, speaking to his constituents in 
the summer of this year] in which I have taken a deeper 
interest than the condition of the working classes. Long before 
what is called the ' condition of the people question' was dis- 
cussed in the House of Commons, I had employed my pen^ on 
the subject. I had long been aware that there was something 
rotten in the core of our social system. I had seen that while 
immense fortunes were accumulating, while wealth was in- 
creasing to a superabundance, and while Great Britain was 
cited throughout Europe as the most prosperous nation in the 
world, the working classes, the creators of wealth, were steeped 
in the most abject poverty and gradually sinking into the 
deepest degradation.^ 

The new Poor Law, he added, of ten years before 
represented 'a philosophical attempt' by the Whigs to 
remedy these evils, and the new Poor Law was still one 
of the centres of contention between opposing schools of 
thought. Its opponents had not been silenced by the 
overwhelming defeat which they suffered in the House 
of Commons in Disraeli's first session. ^ The Times with 
great pertinacity continued to expose and denounce the 
iniquities of the new system, and Dickens, in Oliver Twist, 

1 He was perhaps thinking of Popanilla. 

2 Shropshire Conservative, Aug. 31, 1844. » gge p. 80. 


did much by his picture of life in the new union work- 
houses to fan the agitation. The Act of 1834 was a pro- 
visional measure, and when the Whig Government in their 
last session introduced a Bill for its renewal for ten 
years, Disraeli had the courage to move the rejection, 
and was able to muster more than fifty supporters. ^ The 
Bill was subsequently lost through the dissolution of 
Parliament, and there is no doubt that in the elections 
Peel, though he himself had never given to the agitation 
the slightest encouragement, owed a good deal of his 
success to the unpopularity which the Whigs had incurred 
by their Poor Law, and to the definite pledges that were 
taken by many of his supporters to vote for its amend- 
ment or total abolition. The new Government, however, 
showed little eagerness to do anything for the fulfilment 
of these pledges. Graham, who as Home Secretary was 
the Minister responsible, was still completely dominated 
by the laisser aller principles of his Whig or Liberal days, 
and was, if possible, even less sympathetic than Peel. 
By relaxing in some respects the severity of the adminis- 
tration, introducing some amendments, and promising 
others, he persuaded the House of Commons in 1842 to 
renew the Act for five years ; but the hopes of many 
Tories were deeply disappointed, and the Ministry for 
some sessions had to encounter a persistent agitation in 
the House, which estranged them from a section of their 
natural supporters, and helped to drive them along that 
path of approximation to their Manchester opponents 
which they were too ready to tread. Anxious at this 
time to avoid all appearance of hostility to Peel, Disraeli 
held aloof, never speaking on the subject, and very rarely 
voting ;2 but he did not change his opinions. Better times 
began in 1843 or 1844, and these, aided by the improve- 
ments introduced under pressure of the continuous agita- 
tion, gradually reconciled the country to the new system ; 

1 Hansard, Feb. 8, 1841. 

2 In one division in Committee in 1842 (June 27) he voted against the 

1844] THE NEW POOR LAW 233 

but as late as 1847, when the Act again expired, Disraeli 
spoke and voted against the Bill for its renewal. 

If the new Poor Law was typical of the remedies put 
forward by one school of doctors for the social evils of 
the time, the factory legislation, which was now loudly 
demanded, was no less typical of the remedies which 
the other and Tory school suggested. The fight over the 
Poor Law and the fight over the question of factory reform 
both tended to become incidents in the larger struggle 
now raging between the landed gentry and the manu- 
facturers. The country party, seeing in the misery of the 
factory workers the opportunity for a counter-attack on 
the assailants of their own position, were the more ready 
to apply those legislative remedies to which their tra- 
ditions predisposed them ; the factory masters in their 
turn pointed to the condition of the agricultural labourers 
as an illustration of the practical working of socialistic 
theories, and insisted on their own cure for all social 
evils — the free admission of corn. Disraeli, though he 
had no doubt in which camp he would be found, as usual 
steadily surveyed the whole situation from a central 
point of view. 

I beg to be understood [he said to his constituents in 
justifying his votes in favour of factory legislation] that I do 
not join in the absurd cry against the ruanufacturing interest 
of the country. I respect the talents, the industry, the 
indomitable energy, of that powerful class, and I acknowledge 
them as the primary source of our wealth and greatness; and 
although I am not blind to the fact that great distress, and 
perhaps tyranny, exists in the system, I fear — for I was born^ 
and have lived in an agricultural county — I fear, nay I am 
sure, that the condition of the agricultural labourers cannot be 
cited to the confusion of the manufacturing capitalists.^ 

In the matter of factory reform even more conspicu- 
ously than in the matter of the Poor Law, Graham and 
the Government showed that their sympathies were with 

^ Whether this misstatement is to be put down to rhetoric or to momen- 
tary forgetfulness it is needless to enquire. 
- Speech at Shrewsbury, Aug. 28, 1844. 


Manchester. Continuing his great campaign against the 
oppression of the industrial poor, Lord Ashley in 1840 
procured the appointment of a commission to inquire into 
the facts as to the employment of women and children; 
and two years later the famous report dealing with mines 
and collieries made its appearance. The horrors revealed 
by this lurid document gave so great a shock to the 
conscience of the nation that Ashley in the same session 
was able, though receiving little help from the Govern- 
ment, to carry a Bill excluding women and young children 
from the mines altogether. A second report dealing with 
trades and manufactures was issued by the commission 
in 1843, and Graham himself in this session, spurred on 
by Ashley and an insistent public opinion, introduced a 
Villi for the regulation of factory labour. It contained 
also provisions for the education of factory children, and 
one of those storms that suddenly arise when religious 
education comes into question caused its abandonment ; 
but it was reintroduced in 1844 with the education 
clauses omitted. Beside certain restrictions on the 
employment of children, Graham's Bill proposed to limit 
the labour of ' young persons ' ^ to twelve hours a day ; but 
the factory reformers had long been insisting that ten 
hours were sufficient, and the bulk of the Tory majority, 
if left to themselves, were disposed to agree with them. 
The Government, however, threw the whole weight of 
their influence into the scale of the mill-owners ; and 
though Ashley in committee twice succeeded ^ in de- 
feating them by narrow majorities on the question of 
twelve hours, he failed, also by a narrow majority, to 
carry ten hours as a substantive proposal. It was 
expected that the compromise of eleven hours would be 
adopted, but the Government were unyielding. They 
withdrew their Bill, introduced another, and when Ashley 
again proposed his ten-hours amendment, Graham in- 
formed the House that if it were carried it would be his 

1 Boys from thirteen to eighteen, and girls up to twenty-one. 
'■^ March 15 and 22. 


duty to seek a private station ; and when it seemed 
doubtful, in view of his great unpopularity, whether this 
might not be regarded by the Tory members as a blessing, 
Peel himself got up and stated that if the question were 
decided against them he also would retire. Against such 
a threat as this Ashley could make no headway, and he 
was beaten in the division ^ by nearly two to one. 

Disraeli and Young England^ supported Ashley through- 
out the struggle. Disraeli remained silent, but he told 
his constituents later that he was anxious to speak before 
the last fatal division, and was prevented by the excite- 
ment from obtaining a hearing. Most of the official Whigs 
voted with Ashley — some of them, like Palmerston, from 
sincere interest in the question; others, no doubt, with an 
eye to mere party advantage. Macaulay, wlio in his 
youth had treated Sadler so unworthily, and who had 
now become a convert, was, we may hope, among the 
former. Bright was a bitter advocate for the mill- 
owners throughout, and with him were most of the 
Radical free traders ; but Cobden stood aside, watching 
with secret joy the embarrassment of the Government, 
and feeding himself inwardly with the prescient hope 
' that men like Graham and Peel would see the necessity 
of taking anchor upon some sound principles, as a refuge 
from the socialist doctrines of the fools behind tliem.'^ 
When Graham and Peel had found the anchorage he 
desired, the fools behind them, freed from the constraint 
of their leadership, acted in obedience to their natural 
instincts, and carried the Ten Hours Bill before the end 
of this Parliament. 

The occasion for Disraeli's second speech of the session 
was a personal dispute. Ferrand, the member for 
Knaresborough, who, as we have seen, had affiliations 
with the Young England group, was one of the most 
zealous of the Tory social reformers, strenuous and out- 

1 May 13. 

2 With the exception of Smythe. He was under constant pressure from 
his father to support Peel, and this may have determined his vote. 

3 Morley'8 Cobden, I., p. 302. 


spoken both in support of the Ten Hours Bill and in 
opposition to the new Poor Law. He had become in- 
volved on the latter subject in an endless controversy with 
Graham about a report from a Poor Law official called 
^lott, with regard to which there were grounds for a 
suspicion of chicanery; and in a speech in the country he 
had roundly accused Graham of having procured a false 
report in order to crush an opponent, and also of having 
induced the chairman of an election committee to give a 
partial vote in order to deprive the great enemy of the 
new Poor Law, Walter of The Times, of his seat in 
the House of Commons. Graham made the charges a 
question of privilege, and Disraeli, who had been a 
member of the election committee, intervened in the 
debate with a speech which delighted the House by its 
wit and adroitness. Without attempting to justify 
Ferrand or his charges, he pleaded in his behalf against an 
injudicious penalty, and he contrived before he sat down 
to make fun of all concerned — of Peel, of Graham, of 
Stanley, and even of the House itself — and yet carry 
his audience with him. The hon. member, he thought, 
had a very bad case, and, he added, greatly daring, a 
still worse tribunal; but the House only laughed. He 
had heard the hon. member himself, the Home 
Secretary, and the Prime Minister, all three discourse on 
the subject of the great Mott case,-^ but he never could 
annex a definite idea to any single circumstance of that 
most complicated transaction. Something in it there 
certainly was — there was a case, there was a subcom- 
missioner, a report that was quoted and not printed, 
a commissioner that was quoted and dismissed. No one, 
however, believed, in spite of the suspicious circumstances, 
that the Secretary of State in his exalted position would 
pervert his power for so slight an object. But because a 
mere member of Parliament, supposing himself engaged 

1 The controversy about the report lasted for several years, and ever 
afterwards, both in Parliament and the press, was known as ' the great 
Mott case.' 


in a contest with a powerful Government, had taken an 
extreme view, was a man like the right lion, gentle- 
man to come with that demure countenance which he 
could so well put on, and say that the State was in danger, 
and ' that the House of Commons must interfere to vin- 
dicate the reputation of this, I believe still strong, 
though not popular Ministry ? ' ^ The Prime Minister, he 
thought, had treated the subject in the right way when, 
with that historical research and that unrivalled memory 
for which he was famed, he had referred to the case of the 
bottle conjurer ; ^ but after he had set this good example 
it was surprising to find him followed by the noble lord 
(Stanley) in such a different strain. 

There is always something chivalric about the noble lord, 
and one cannot but admire him when hastening to the rescue 
of his right hon. friend the Secretary of State. But . . . 
I could not suppress my surprise at seeing him get up, and, 
in his zeal to inform the hon. member for Knaresborough, 
first denounce his statements as calumnies, and then charge 
him with having made those statements knowing them to be 
calumnious. That is the model by which the hon. member 
will profit when he returns to the House . . . and we shall 
find his speeches hereafter distinguished for all that amenity 
of manner and that choice selection of conciliatory phrase 
which have hitherto distinguished the speeches of the noble 
lord. The noble lord declares the hon. member is an in- 
tentional calumniator. . . . How will he substantiate that 
assertion ? Better than the hon. member has substantiated 
his ? The noble lord in this case, as in so many others, first 
destroys his opponent, and then destroys his own position. 
The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of Parliamentary dis- 
cussion ; his charge is resistless ; but when he returns from the 
pursuit he always finds his camp in the possession of the 
enemy (cheers and laughter). 

The name clung to Stanley, and to this day he is best 
known as the Parliamentary Rupert. It was now again 
the turn of Graham, and the mockery became malicious : 

1 This sally, we are told, was received with ' roars of laughter.' 

2 Peel's speech had contained a reference to ' the public performer who 
undertook to compress himself into a quart bottle. 


As if all these great guns were not sufficient to sink this 
unfortunate craft, then comes the Secretary of State to keep 
up the solemn inspiration of the farce, and rising tells us, 
' This is the Ik-itish House of Commons. This is not a 
hustings. Gentlemen may tell lies upon the hustings, but 
gentlemen may not tell lies in the British House of Commons.' 
This is the political morality of the Secretary of State. 
Now, I entirely differ from the right hon. gentleman on 
this point. I certainly do not think that gentlemen ought to 
tell lies in the House of Commons, but I also think hon. 
gentlemen ought to be as careful in what they say on the 
hustings. I even go farther than that: I say that hon. 
gentlemen ought not to make pledges on the hustings which 
they do not mean to keep in the House of Commons. I don't 
think that a gentleman on the hustings, for example, ought 
to denounce the new Poor Law, and then come into the House 
of Commons and vote for it. I call that corrupt and un- 
principled conduct ; and if there be any gentleman in this 
House who has been guilty of that conduct, why, he may rise 
in his place and propose a vote of censure on me for saying so 
(cheers and laughter). 

A more genial laugh at Peel brought the speech to a 
conclusion : 

Ko attempt by this House, whether right or wrong in the 
beginning, from the time of Sacheverell to our friend Mr. 
Stockdale, to run down an individual has ever succeeded or 
has ever terminated to their advantage. Remember what 
another Sir Robert — not a greater man than our Sir Robert, 
but still a most distinguished one — said with respect to the 
case of Dr. Sacheverell. He said he had had ' enough of 
roasting a parson ' ; and I think the right hon. gentleman, 
taking as he did the great historical view of the case, the 
bottle conjurer view of the case, might really, after what has oc- 
curred, allow the matter to drop, feeling assured that the hon. 
member has received a great moral lesson, and that when he 
appears on the hustings in future he will, not adopting the 
distinction of the Secretary of State, be almost as cautious 
there as he is in the House of Commons.^ 

He sat down, we are told, amid loud and continued 
cheering, and, whether or not in deference to the advice 
he had given, the House eventually contented itself with 

1 The Times, April 25, 1844. 


a formal resolution that Ferrand's imputations were 
wholly unfounded and calumnious. 

From Henry Hope. 

April 25. 
My dear Disraeli, 

I cannot resist the temptation of expressing to you the 
delight I felt at reading your speech of last night. Any 
remark from me on the beauty of the composition or the 
keenness of the wit would be superfluous, and almost imperti- 
nent ; but independently of that there is about it a high 
feeling which pleases me more than I can tell — tearing off 
the mask from hypocrites, exposing the turbulence of bullies, 
and showing, what I so long have felt, that the measure of 
public virtue and public sympathy was the plausibility and 
power of the assailants and assailed. 

Ever yours, 

Hexry T. Hope. 

In May Peel had succeeded in compelling the House of 
Commons to reverse its decision on the question of the 
Factory Bill, and in June he repeated the performance on 
a question of sugar duties. Skilful finance, aided by two 
good harvests and a revival of trade, had at last produced 
a surplus, and the Budget of this year proposed among 
other changes a reduction of these duties. Sugar was 
then, as often before and since, a political explosive ; it 
had caused the fall of the Whigs in 1841, and Peel's pro- 
posals were regarded by many of his supporters as resem- 
bling too closely those which he had then resisted. This 
section of the Conservative members, anxious to increase 
the preference to free-grown sugar from the colonies over 
foreign slave-grown sugar, combined with the Opposition, 
and carried 1 against the Government an amendment 
reducing the duties on all free-grown sugar. Young 
England ^ voted in the majority, though Disraeli, ' out of 
his great personal regard for the Prime Minister,' as he 
told liis constituents later, gave his vote in silence ; while 
Cobden and Bright and the orthodox free traders, dis- 

1 June 14. The figures were 241 to 221. 

2 All except Cochrane. 



liking the sugiir-growers as allies of the landed gentry, 
and notwithstanding the fact that the amendment 
implied a step in the direction of free trade, supported 
the Government. In those days, it must be remembered, 
the House of Commons had not been reduced to that 
dependence on the Ministry to which we are now accus- 
tomed, and such incidents as the acceptance of this 
amendment were not uncommon ; but Peel determined to 
insist on his original proposals, and summoned a party 
meeting to consider the situation. At this meeting, 
according to Gladstone, he 'stated his case in a speech 
which was thought to be liaughty and unconciliatory 
and although the open dissentients, among whom were 
Disraeli and Ferrand, were only five or six, the general 
tone was so bad that Peel wrote to the Queen to prepare 
her for the defeat of the Government. ^ 

Disraeli also seems to have believed that the Govern- 
ment were doomed. The original division had been on 
a Friday, and on the Monday following the House of 
Commons was to be asked to rescind its vote. On the 
Sunday night Cam Hobhouse met the Disraelis at dinner 
at Baron Lionel de Rothschild's, the party, which included 
Lord and Lady Lansdowne and Lord and Lady John 
Russell, having, it seems, been made to bring Disraeli 
and the Whig leaders together. Disraeli told Hobhouse 
that he believed the Ministers would be out by five o'clock 
the next day, and he thought the Whigs would have no 
difficulty in filling their places. 

He said Ireland was no obstacle; we could govern it 
although the Tories could not. The Corn Laws might be 
settled as well by us as by Peel ; and as to the Poor Law, some 
modification must be made by anyone who could govern. . . . 
Peel had completely failed to keep together his party, and 
must go — if not now, at least very speedily. He said Russell 
was one of the very few men in the House of Commons who had 
a strong will and was fit to govern. He thought nothing of 
Stanley ; Graham he admired for his capacity.* 

iMorley's Gladstone, I., p. 644. 2 Parker's Peel, III., p. 153. 

^Lord Broughton's Becollections, VI., p. 114. 


On the Monday, Peel, who was usually, Disraeli told 
his constituents, ' the most prudent of orators if not of 
statesmen,' made a speech so unconciliatory as to draw 
a vigorous protest even from the faithful Sandon. ' His 
own friends said afterwards that they were astonished at 
the want of caution, the want of temper, and the arrogant 
and imperious tone he adopted on this occasion.' Disraeli 
himself made a speech, the third of the session, which 
produced a great effect. 'I could not silently,' he ex- 
plained in his subsequent justification, ' obey the imperious 
mandate, and I warmly and passionately and quite un- 
premeditatedly expressed my feelings on the subject.' 
For a second time within a month, he told the House of 
Commons, they had been placed in a position which no 
one on either side could call other than degrading ; for a 
second time they were asked to repeal a solemn decision. 
To rescind one vote in the session was, he really thought, 
enough; he did not think they ought to be called on to 
endure this degradation more than once a year. The 
Prime Minister should introduce some Parliamentary 
tariff for the regulation of their disapproval ; he ought 
to tell them the bounds within which they were to enjoy 
their Parliamentary independence. His was not the 
most agreeable way of conducting the affairs of the 
country; it was not the most constitutional. He had a 
horror of slavery, but it seemed to extend to every place 
except the benches behind him. ' There the gang is still 
assembled, and there the thong of the whip still sounds.' 
At this gibe, Hobhouse tells us, ' there was a tremendous 
cheer, and Peel, Stanley, and Graham sat in most painful 
silence and submission to the rebuke amidst the applause 
of many near and all opposite to them. I never saw them 
look so wretched.' 1 

The Prime Minister, Disraeli proceeded, deserved a 
better position in the eye of the country than one which 
he could only maintain by menacing his friends and deal- 
ing out threats to keep them to their allegiance. 
1 Lord Broughtoii's Becollections, VI., p. 118. 

VOL. II — K 


The right hon. gentleman came into power upon the 
strength of our votes, but he relies for the permanence of his 
Ministry upon his political opponents. He may be right — he 
may even be to a certain degree successful in pursuing the 
line of conduct which he has adopted, menacing his friends 
and cringing to his opponents; but I for one am disposed to 
believe that in this case his success will neither tend to the 
honor of the House nor to his own credit. I therefore, for one, 
must be excused if I declare my determination to give my 
vote upon this occasion as I did on the former occasion, and 
... it only remains for me to declare, after the mysterious 
hint which fell from the right hon. baronet in the course of 
his speech, that if I, in common with other hon. members, 
am called upon to appear again upon the hustings, I shall at 
least not be ashamed to do so, nor shall I feel that I have 
weakened my claims upon the confidence of my constituents 
by not changing my vote within forty-eight hours at the 
menace of a Minister. 

He sat down amid cheers that were loud and sustained, 
and till near the close of the debate it seemed almost 
certain that the Government would be beaten. But Lord 
Howick intervened from the front Opposition bench 
with a blundering free-trade speech, and Stanley, seizing 
the opportunity with his customary readiness, appealed 
to Tory sentiment in an adroit party reply, and restored 
the fortunes of the day. The House rescinded its vote 
by a majority of twenty,^ and the Government were 
saved. It was Stanley's last great appearance in debate 
in the House of Commons, for at the close of this session 
he was called to the Upper House by his own desire, and 
seven years before, in the order of nature, he succeeded to 
his father. Disraeli probably gave no more than a passing 
thought to his removal at the time, but it was none the 
less an event that a few years later was to prove decisive 
in its influence on his own political career. 

1 The figures were 25.3 to 233. Disraeli and his friends voted in the 
minority, even Cochrane, who had at first voted with the Government, 
now declaring that, as the question at issue had become the independence 
of the House, he could no longer support them. On tlie day after the 
division Queen Victoria wrote to her uncle, the King of the Belgians : 
' We were really in the greatest possible danger of having a resignation of 
the Government without knowing to whom to turn, and this from the 
recklessness of a handful of foolish half " Puseyite," half "Young Eng- 
land" people ' (Letters of Queen Victoria, ch. 13). 


To Sarah Disraeli. 

House of Commons, 

July 9. 

My dearest Sa, 

I have been intending to write every day, but in the 

struggle of existence have daily postponed it. M. A. has, I 

think, written frequently ; therefore when we meet you will 

have the map of our life tolerably fresh in your memory. . . . 

At Bearwood we found all the Walters, his married daughter 
and her husband, the Ferrands, John Manners, Smythe, 
Cochrane. We came up on Monday by the 2 o'clock train 
from Twyford, the most beautiful day for sylvan scenery. 
And at night we went to the Waverley Ball, which would have 
been as fine a thing as possible had not the illusion been 
marred, or rather destroyed, by numerous gentlemen in black 
coats and white cravats, and among them Lord Wilton and 
some of the first dandies. 

Ld. Castlereagh as a Bedouin chief was very accurate and 
undiscoverable ; young Hogg as Lovell in The Antiquary bore 
the belt, I think, of the beaus, beyond Cantelupe as Coeur de 
Lion and Granby as Quintin [sic'] Durward, not Quintin Dick, 
which it was reported he represented. 

Smy the's book ^ was published on Saturday, but as yet its 
fate is undecided, though I think it will not rank among the 

In the course of the month I hope to see my way in many 
things, which look on the whole favorable. 

Manchester has invited me to take the chair at their 
literary meeting, which delights M. A. much and is a co(rp: 
and the Buck[ingham]s to commemorate the majority of 

Thousand loves to all. 

Your affectionate 

Before going to Manchester he had Hhree fatiguing 
days of triumph ' at Shrewsbury. 

To Mrs. Disraeli. 


Aug. 27. 

Wherever I go, I hear of nothing but 'Mrs. Disraeli,' and 

why she did not come, and when she will come. When the 

railway is finished, then they count on seeing her very often. 

Among the shopkeepers, whom I wish most to please, your 

1 Historic Fancies. 


name and memory are most lively and influential. * Such a 
gay lady, sir ! You never can have a dull moment, sir ! ' — and 
I tell them all that you are a perfect wife as virell as a perfect 
companion, and that, separated from you for the first ^ time 
after five years, we are (alas ! alas !) parted on our wedding 
day. The women shed tears, which indeed I can barely 
myself restrain. It is only half an hour to post, and I have 
come in pretty well, but very tired. A sort of amateur canvass 
to-day, calling on all the reputable and influential trades- 
people, who seek no other reward for their good offices but 
such notice. It is understood, I find, that I am the tradesmen''s 
member: so I don't trouble myself much about the pseudo- 
aristocracy and less about the real. The Lawrences, Groves, 
Taylors, Lees, are the men. They quite approve as to the 
attack on the Government, but a little alarmed in some 
quarters, I find, about Popery, monasteries, and John Manners. 
This I shall quietly soften down. . . . Our wedding feast mnst 
be on Thnrsday, but if I die for it I will write you some 
verses to-morrow.^ 

Wednesday {Aug. 28]. 

Yesterday at 8 o'clock to the Bull — a capital meeting. I 
made an admirable speech. Enthusiasm very great indeed, 
and all malcontents apparently silenced. Taylor the maltster 
in the chair. His speech proposing your health a miracle of 
rhetoric. He said being your husband was a very good 
reason why I was fit to be member for Shrewsbury. Indeed, 
the feeling for yon here is beyond all imagination. Everybody 
enquires after you : high and low. Taylor's speech gave me 
a good opening about our first separation and the wedding 
day, which is now known all over Shrewsbury. The effect 
was very great. . . . 

At 8 o'clock to-night a very great meeting at the Lion, some 
hundreds and reporters engaged. . . . The only thing that 
consoles me for our separation is my strong conviction that 
my presence here was absolutely necessary. What might 
have injured me, I have now turned to good account. The 
feeling of the people is genuine and may be depended on. 
They seem all of them quite to appreciate my start this year, 
both literary and political. 

In his two speeches ^ on this occasion he passed in review 
his conduct in Parliament from the time of his previous 

1 He forgets the separation in the spring of 1842. 

2 In accordance with an annual custom. 

3 They are reported at length in the Shropshire Conservative for Aug. 31, 


visit, immediately after which hostilities to the Govern- 
ment, as we have seen, had begun. The local Conserva- 
tive paper had welcomed with an exultant shout of 
' unqualified satisfaction ' the speech on the sugar 
duties ; and Disraeli's task of defending his present atti- 
tude towards the Government proved far easier than the 
task he had essayed at the time of his previous visit, of 
defending the support he had up to then given them. 
The two speeches have been freely quoted in the fore- 
going pages, but one passage, in which he proclaimed his 
disinterestedness and independence, must be added here : 

I supported the Conservative party as long as they kept to 
their principles, and when they deserted those principles I 
voted against them. ... I have always expressed my feelings 
with regret when I have differed from the party to which I 
am attached, but I would rather be nothing than be the mute 
registrar of the decrees of a Government. The situation of an 
independent representative is by no means an enviable one. If 
you sit on the benches behind the Ministers and speak in 
favor of the Ministers, you are sneered at, and it is said you 
want a place ; and if you speak against the Ministers you are 
again sneered at, and it is said you have been refused a place. 
I can assure you, gentlemen, I am not frightened at these 
sneers and taunts ; I never asked Sir Robert Peel for a place, 
and they pass me harmless. When such taunts are used by 
the Opposition I laugh at them, and consider them as the 
fair play of party . . . but let Sir Robert Peel, or any of his 
friends who are likely to know anything of the matter, say 
that I asked for a place, and I will undertake to give them an 
answer which shall be perfectly satisfactory. 

How he reconciled the statement that he had never 
asked for a place with the correspondence of September, 
1841, there will be a more fitting opportunity hereafter 
to consider; but desire for place excluded, there still 
remained the question of the motive for his exertions, 
and he faced it with his usual boldness : 

There is no doubt, gentlemen, that all men who offer them- 
selves as candidates for public favor have motives of some 
sort. I candidly acknowledge that I have, and I will tell you 
what they are : I love fame ; I love public reputation ; I love 


to live in the eyes of the country ; and it is a glorious thing for 
a man to do who has had my difficulties to contend against. 

A few months before he had written in a higher strain 
of 'that noble ambition which will not let a man be 
content unless his intellectual power is recognised by his 
race . . . the heroic feeling ; the feeling that in old days 
produced demigods ; without which no State is safe ; 
without which political institutions are meat without 
salt ; the Crown a bauble, the Church an establishment, 
Parliaments debating clubs, and Civilisation itself but a 
fitful and transient dream.' ^ 

To Manchester the Disraelis were accompanied by 
Manners and Smythe, much to the annoyance of their 
fathers, the Duke of Rutland and Lord Strangford, who 
exchanged letters ^ on the subject. 'I lament,' wrote the 
Duke, ' the influence which Mr. Disraeli has acquired over 
several of the young British senators, and over your son 
and mine especially. I do not know Mr. Disraeli by sight, 
but I have respect only for his talents, which I think he 
sadly misuses.' Strangford had himself been on terms 
of intimacy with Disraeli, but he had now, it would 
appear, begun to harbour doubts as to his former friend's 
integrity. The doubts may have been engendered by 
the chagrin with which he watched his son following 
Disraeli into open opposition, when he hoped to see him 
repair the ruined fortunes of his house by the aid of Peel's 
favour. The dialogue between Lord Monmouth and 
Henry Coningsby has been already given. We seem in this 
dialogue to hear the authentic voices of the old political 
order which was passing away, and of that which Young 
England desired to see in its place, and incidentally we 
have a wholesome reminder of the realties of politics on 
which Young England, in its enthusiasm for its own 
romantic ideal, had boldly declared war, but of which 
Disraeli, we may be certain, though he could share the 
enthusiasm, never lost sight. However, on this occasion 

^ Coningsby, Bk. V., ch. 1. 

\ 2 Lives of the Lord S'trangfords, by E. B. de Foublanque, p. 224. 






?; — 





"■^ian-' I 


at least romanticism prevailed, and Smythe and Manners 
supported Disraeli at the Athenaeum meeting. It was 
the culminating point in the glory of Young England. 
The meeting, Disraeli wrote, ^ was, he believed, ' the largest 
assemblage ever collected within four walls'; and the 
three friends made eloquent speeches, which were received 
with great enthusiasm, and republished in pamphlet form 
for the benefit of a wider audience. Disraeli's contained 
a sentence which his sister thought ' sublime,' and which 
he used afterwards to recall himself with a certain 
complacency : 

Knowledge is like the mystic ladder in the patriarch's dream : 
its base rests on the primeval earth, its crest is lost iu the 
shadowy splendor of the empyrean ; while the great authors 
who for traditionary ages have held the chain of science and 
philosophy, of poesy and erudition, are the angels ascending 
and descending the sacred scale, and maintaining, as it were, 
the communication between man and heaven. 

Disraeli appears to have stayed in the North for some 
time, and it was now, probably, that he made that study 
of the industrial districts of which we see the results in 
Sybil. We find him at Worsley Hall as the guest of Lord 
Francis Egerton, at Bingley, in the West Riding, as the 
guest of the Ferrands, and at Fryston as the guest of 
Monckton Milnes or his father. At Bingley the Ferrands 
were establishing a system of garden allotments for the 
benefit of industrial operatives, and endeavouring in 
other ways to bring classes together ; and there Disraeli 
made a speech in which he tried to expound the aims of 
Young England, and insisted on class and party divisions 
as the crying evil of the time. 

We are asked sometimes what we want. We want in the 
first place to impress upon society that there is such a thing 
as duty. We don't do that in any spirit of conceit or arro- 
gance ; we don't pretend that we are better than others, but 
we are anxious to do our duty, and, if so, we think we have a 
right to call on others, whether rich or poor, to do theirs. 

^To Lord Londonderry. 


If that principle of duty had not been lost sight of for the last 
fifty years, you would never have heard of the classes into 
which England is divided. . . . 

We want to put an end to that political and social exclusive- 
ness which we believe to be the bane of this country. . , . We 
don't coiue out like a pack of pedants to tell you we are 
prepared to remedy every grievance by the square and rule. 
... It is not so ranch to the action of laws as to the influence 
of manners that we must look. . . . But how are manners to 
influence men if they are divided into classes — if the popula- 
tion of a country becomes a body of sections, a group of hostile 
garrisons ? . . . We see but little hope for this country so 
long as that spirit of faction that has been so rampant of late 
years is fostered and encouraged. We call it a spirit of 
faction, for the principles on which the parties who nominally 
divide this country were originally formed have worn out and 
ceased to exist ; and an association of men, however powerful, 
without political principles is not a party, but a faction. Of 
such a state of society the inevitable result is that public 
passions are excited for private ends, and popular improve- 
ment is lost sight of in particular aggrandisement. 

At Fryston Disraeli met a young lawyer called Gathorne 
Hardy, who was to be in later days one of his closest 
political associates. Hardy has left on record his first 
impressions of his future chief, and they were not wholly 
favourable. Disraeli's conversation he found ' far from 
striking'; there was too much striving to be epigram- 
matic. His judgments of men were ' equally clever and 
just ' ; but his vanity and self-esteem prevented him from 
talking freely ' lest he should lose ground.' ^ 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

Jan. 20, 1845. 
You have heard of our sudden expedition to Stowe, and its 
brilliant success ; her Majesty, Peel, Aberdeen, and all 
equally distinguishing us by their courtesy. The whole scene 
sumptuous and a great success for the Duke. The Wednesday 
before I kept my engagement at Stationers' Hall, where I sat 
on the right hand of the master, and had to make a speech, 
which was rather ridiculous, as there were only thirty or forty 
citizens, grubbing like boys a table of delicacies ; but I seemed 

1 Memoir of Gathorne Hardy., I., p. 53. 

1845] A PARTY AT STOWE 249 

to please them, and all came up to be presented in turn to the 
great man. Most present were of the time of the first red 
sandstone, and before Mercury or Venus were created. 

A letter of Mrs. Disraeli's had already conveyed to 
Bradenham an account of the party at Stowe : 

We were for the first hour in the vestibule, like a flock 
of sheep, half lit up, and no seats or fire, only a little hot 
air and a great deal of cold wind; a marble floor. Fancy, 
dear, shivering Dizzy, and cross-looking Mary Anne, in black 
velvet, hanging sleeves looped up with knots of blue, and 
diamond buttons. Head-dress, blue velvet bows and dia- 
monds. After a time we passed her Majesty and the Prince, 
the Duke and Duchess and the rest standing behind, the 
Duke giving our names exactly the same as an ordinary 
groom, and we making our curtseys and bows. About eleven, 
or soon after, her Majesty retired, and then all became joy 
and triumph to us. First Sir Robert Peel came to us, shaking 
hands most cordially, and remained talking for some time, 
then Lord Nugent, introducing his lady, Col. Anson, Sir 
James Graham, Lord and Lady de la Warr, Lord Aberdeen. 
The Duke almost embraced Dizzy, saying he was one of his 
oldest friends; and then he offered me his arm, taking me 
all through the gorgeous splendid scene, through the supper 
room and back again, down the middle and up again — 
all making way for us, the Queen and your delighted Mary 
Anne being the only ladies so distinguished. After this I 
retired to a sofa, with the Duchess, who told me that her 
Majesty had pointed Dizzy out, saying ' There's Mr. Disraeli.'' 
Do you call all this nothing? The kind Duchess asked me 
to luncheon the next day and to see the Queen's private 




Sybil ; or. The Two Nations, appears to have been begun 
very soon after the publication of Coningshy. ' How are 
the two nations ? ' writes George Smythe in the summer 
of 1844, the two nations signifying the rich and the poor. 
With the condition of the rural poor Disraeli had become 
familiar in his long struggle over the Poor Law, and his 
visits to the North in the autumns of 1843 and 1844 had 
shown him the facts of life in the great industrial towns. 
The publication of the reports of the Children's Employ- 
ment Commission, and the debates on the Factory Bill in 
the session of 1844, had fixed attention on the social 
problem ; and as Coningshy treated of party, Sybil treated 
of the people and social conditions. The original design 
of Coningsby had been larger than was then executed. 

The derivation and character of poHtical parties ; the con- 
dition of the people which had been the consequence of them ; 
the duties of the Church as a main remedial agency in our 
present state, were the three principal topics which I intended 
to treat, but I found they were too vast for the space I had 
allotted to myself. These were all launched in Covingsby ; 
but the origin and condition of political parties, the first 
portion of the theme, was the only one completely handled in 
that work. 

Next year, in Sybil, I considered the condition of the people. 
... At that time the Chartist agitation was still fresh in 
the public memory, and its repetition was far from improb- 
able. I had mentioned to my friend, the late Thomas Dun- 
combe, and who was my friend before I entered the House of 



Commons, something of what I was contemplating; and he 
offered and obtained for my perusal the whole of the corre- 
spondence of Feargus O'Connor when conductor of the 
Northern Star, with the leaders and chief actors of the Chartist 
movement. I had visited and observed with care all the 
localities introduced ; ^ and as an accurate and never exagger- 
ated picture of a remarkable period in our domestic history, 
and of a popular organisation which in its extent and com- 
pleteness has perhaps never been equalled, the pages of Sybil 
may, I venture to believe, be consulted with confidence.^ 

The new novel was published in May, a year after 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

May-Day, 1845. 
Sybil was finished yesterday ; I thought it never would be ; 
the printers were on my heels, and have been for the last 
month, but I don't think it can be published till the middle of 
the month. ... I have never been through such a four months, 
and hope never again. What with the House of Commons, 
which was itself quite enough for a man, and writing 600 pages, 
I thought sometimes my head must turn. I have never had 
a day, until this, that I have felt, as it were, home for the 

Si/bil made its appearance with a dedication which has 
become famous : 

I would inscribe this work to one whose noble spirit and 
gentle nature ever prompt her to sympathise with the suffer- 
ing ; to one whose sweet voice has often encouraged, and whose 
taste and judgment have ever guided, its pages; the most 
severe of critics, but — a perfect Wife ! 

Among the odds and ends from Disraeli's pen preserved 
by his wife's pious care, there is a bundle of little notes 
which he wrote to her while he was composing Coningshy 
and Sybil : reports of his progress, inquiries after her 

1 In his preface to Syhil itself, Disraeli stated, with regard to his pictures 
of industrial life, that ' the descriptions generally were written from his 
own observation ' ; he said nothing of his great indebtedness to the reports 
of the Children's Commission, partly, no doubt, because those reports were 
very widely known, and still more, perhaps, because a confession that the 
novel was founded on a Blue Book would not have been alluring. 

2 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 

252 SYBIL [CHAP, ix 

health, invitations to a stroll, requests for a glass of wine 
or permission to smoke a cigar, and one calling her to a 
consultation — ' I wish you would come up and talk a 
little over a point, if you are not particularly engaged ' — 
which seems to show that his compliment to her taste 
and judgment was no mere pretence. What was cer- 
tainly not pretence was his desire that the world should 
believe in her possession of these and all good qualities. 
Throughout their married life, when conversing with 
others, even on subjects beyond the range of her cultiva- 
tion, he was in the habit, it is said, of bringing her tact- 
fully in by references to her opinions or appeals to her 
critical judgment ; and woe betide those who fell short 
in the respect which he himself gave and thought due to 
her pronouncements ! 

Sybil received from the critics more praise than even 
Coningshy^ and ran through its three editions in the course 
of the summer. With the critics and with the elect it 
has remained a favourite ever since. It has been vari- 
ously praised as ' the sincerest ' ^ of Disraeli's novels, as 
' the grandest and the most valuable,' ^ and as the fore- 
most in interest both to the student of social history and 
to the critic of English literature — to the one for its 
picture of social conditions, and to the other for ' the high 
comedy of its social and political intrigue.'^ But it has 
never really enjoyed the popularity of Coningsby. Sybil 
suffers more from being a novel with a purpose, even 
though the purpose is so high and inspiring. Its real 
interest is possibly deeper, but it is an interest of classes 
and of situations, not the interest of personalities that 
was so piquant in Coningsby. When Disraeli is recalled 
as the creator of the political novel, it is usually Coningsby, 
not Sybil, that his readers have in mind, 

Sybil, like Coningsby, has very little plot, but is a 
succession of scenes, as Coningsby of characters. We 
begin with a scene of admirable comedy in the golden 

1 Lord Morley. ^ Lord Iddesleigh, in his edition of the novel. 

8 H. D. TraiU. 

1845] THE TWO XATIO^^S 253 

saloons of a sumptuous London club, obviously meant foi 
Crockford's on the eve of the Derby of 1837. The object 
from the first is to emphasise the contrast between the 
two nations — between riches and poverty, luxury and 
suffering ; between gilded youth of the type of Alfred 
Mountchesney, whom we meet at the club, and who 
' rather likes bad wine because one gets so bored with good,' 
and the miserable toilers whom we afterwards encounter. 
In the company of youthful patricians assembled at 
Crockford's to discuss the odds on the coming race, we 
make the acquaintance of Charles Egremont, the hero of 
the novel, a younger brother of the Earl of Marney and 
heir-presumptive to the title. An account of the Marney 
pedigree and of the origin of the family in the plundering 
of the Church by Henry VIII. leads to a long digression 
on ' the cause of civil and religious liberty,' the politics of 
the Venetian party, the careers of Shelburne and Pitt, 
who finally broke their power, and other phases of the 
recent political history of England which had not been 
presented in Coningshy. To all this we shall return. 
Then we have the famous scene ' in a palace in a garden,' 
the accession of Queen Victoria, which is adroitly made 
the occasion for the introduction of the real theme and 
purpose of the novel : 

In a sweet and thrilling voice, and with a composed mien 
which indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty 
than an absence of emotion, The Queen announces her 
accession to the throne of her ancestors, and her humble hope 
that divine Providence will guard over the fulfilment of her 
lofty trust. 

The prelates and captains and chief men of her realm then 
advance to the throne, and, kneeling before her, pledge their 
troth, and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and supremacy. 

Allegiance to one who rules over the land that a great 
Macedonian could not conquer ; and over a continent of which 
even Columbus never dreamed : to the Queen of every sea, 
and of nations in every zone. 

It is not of these that I would speak ; but of a nation nearer 
her footstool, and which at this moment looks to her with 
anxiety, with affection, perhaps with hope. Fair and serene, 

254 SYBIL [chap, ix 

she has the blood and beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her 
proud destiny at length to bear relief to suffering millions, and, 
with that soft hand which might inspire troubadours and 
guerdon knights, break the last links in the chain of Saxon 
thraldom ? 

In Charles Egremont and his brother Lord Marney we 
have the two contrasted types of aristocrat — the good 
and the bad. Marney was ' cynical, devoid of sentiment, 
arrogant, literal, hard. He had no imagination, had 
exhausted his slight native feeling ; but he was acute, 
disputatious, and firm even to obstinacy. He believed 
he could pass through existence in adamantine armour, 
and .always gave you in the business of life the idea of a 
man who was conscious you were trying to take him in, 
and rather respected you for it, but the working of whose 
cold, unkind eye defied you.' His character as a landlord 
was revealed by the condition of the rural town of Marney : 
a collection of ruined hovels arranged in narrow and 
crowded lanes, in which the agricultural labourers lived 
amid surroundings of indescribable squalor, till pestilence 
or famine released them from their misery. Their suffer- 
ings caused no qualms of conscience in Lord Marney. 

I wish the people were as well off in every part of the country 
as they are on my estate. They get here their eight shillings 
a- week, always at least seven, and every hand is at this 
moment in employ, except a parcel of scoundrels who prefer 
wood-stealing and poaching, and who would prefer wood- 
stealing and poaching if you gave them double the wages. 
The rate of wages is nothing; certainty is the thing; and 
every man at Marney may be sure of his seven shillings a week 
for at least nine months in the year ; and for the other three, 
they can go to the House, and a very proper place for them ; 
it is heated with hot air, and has every comfort. . . . The 
poor are well off, at least the agricultural poor, very well off 
indeed. Their incomes are certain, that is a great point, and 
they have no cares, no anxieties ; they always have a resource, 
they always have the House. People without cares do not 
require so much food as those whose life entails anxieties. 

Egremont, unlike his brother, had a generous spirit 
and a tender heart. By birth one of the happy few for 


whom the world was then made, and by charm of disposi- 
tion a favourite with all, he had spent an idle youth, and 
had barely withstood the efforts of his parents and society 
to spoil him ; but a disappointment in love at the age of 
twenty-four had arrested him in his career of frivolity 
and pleasure, and though, after a period spent in travel 
and reflection, he had come back to his old life, it was 
with the difference that he was now conscious of wanting an 
object. By the contrivance of his mother, who happened 
to be a distinguished ' stateswoman,' he was returned 
to Parliament in 1837 ; but it was not there that he was to 
find the object he was seeking, but in a chance meeting 
with three strangers in the ruins of Marney Abbey. One 
of the strangers was Walter Gerard, who, as Egremont 
discovers, was an adherent of the old faith, and, though a 
leader of the people, had a refinement of spirit and a feeling 
for the past which we should look for in vain in the 
typical blatant demagogue or the utilitarian Radical. His 
sense of present-day wrongs did not hinder him from 
sympathising with the monks who were so foully driven 
from the beautiful abbey they had created : 

If the world but only knew what they had lost ! . . . There 
were on an average in every shire at least twenty structures 
such as this was; in this great county double that number: 
establishments that were as vast and as magniticent and as 
beautiful as your Belvoirs and your Chatsworths, your Went- 
worths and your Stowes. Try to imagine the effect of thirty 
or forty Chatsworths in this county, the proprietors of which 
were never absent. You complain enough now of absentees. 
The monks were never non-resident. They expended their 
revenue among those whose labor had produced it. . . . 
They made the country beautiful, and the people proud of their 
country. . . . 

As long as the monks existed, the people, when aggrieved, 
had property on their side. And now 'tis all over, and travel- 
lers come and stare at these rums, and think themselves very 
wise to moralise over time. They are the children of violence, 
not of time. It is war that created these ruins, civil war, of 
all our civil wars the most inhuman, for it was waged with 
the unresisting. The monasteries were taken by storm, they 
were sacked, gutted, battered with warlike instruments, blown 

256 • SYBIL [CHAP, ix 

up with gunpowder; you may^ see the marks of the blast 
against .the new tower here. Never was such a plunder. 
The whole face of the country for a century was that of a land 
recently invaded by a ruthless enemy; it was worse than 
the Norman Conquest ; nor has England ever lost this char- 
acter of ravage. I don't know whether the union workhouses 
will remove it. They are building something for the people 
at last. After an experiment of three centuries, your gaols 
being full, and your treadmills losing something of their virtue, 
you have given us a substitute for the monasteries. 

The second of the three strangers was Stephen Morley, 
a socialist editor, eager, high-strung, and fanatical, who 
found so much to lament in the world in which he lived 
that he could spare no pang for the past ; and the third 
was Gerard's daughter Sybil. 

Sybil among Disraeli's heroines is like Eva in Tancred 
or Theodora in Lotliair — rather, as has been well said,i 
' the symbol of a great idea ' or the embodiment of a great 
enthusiasm than a mere individual, or even the represent- 
ative of a class. She stands for the people, for the nation 
of the poor, for pity of their sufferings, for their hopes 
of redemption. In an ordinary Chartist heroine there 
would have been some strident note of vulgarity or self- 
assertion to chill and estrange ; but Sybil, like her father, 
is refined and ennobled by her devotion to the old faith, 
with its long historical memories, its poetry and romance, 
its spiritual mystery, its world-wide charity, and its soul- 
subduing power. Egremont first hears her singing, in 
tones of almost supernatural sweetness, the evening hymn 
to the Virgin from the Lady's Chapel of the abbey, and 
then sees her standing in a vacant and starlit arch in 
seraph-like beauty. From that moment Sybil Gerard is 
all the world to him. Haunted by the memory of her 
voice and appearance, he pursues her to Mowbray, a 
manufacturing town, where her father is a mill-manager ; 
and there, living for a time under an assumed name, he 
finds, in conversation with Gerard, with Morley the 
socialist, and, above all, with Sybil herself, the mission 

1 By Dr. Brandes. 

1845] THE HEROINE • 257 

of his life — love of Sybil, and vindication of the wrongs 
of the poor; for the two things are one. 

Close to Mowbray is a Gothic castle, the seat of 
Earl de Mowbray, formerly Lord Fitz-Warene, whose 
Norman name and pedigree are traced with bitter satire 
to his father, John Warren, a St. James's Street waiter, 
who had become an Indian nabob and been ennobled by 
Mr. Pitt. The present peer's mother was the daughter 
of an Irish Earl, and he himself had married the daughter 
of a ducal house, and now fully believed in the authenticity 
of his pedigree. His children had been 'christened by 
names which the ancient records of the Fitz-VVarenes 
authorised,' and the memory of the waiter was completely 

Pomp and luxury reign in Mowbray Castle; in poignant 
contrast is the misery of the people outside its gates. 
The career of a Devilsdust, the exactions of the mill- 
owners Shuffle and Screw, and the picture of the sufferings 
of the hand-weaver Warner and his starving family, help 
us to realise the price which England has to pay for her 
manufacturing greatness. Accompanying Stephen Morley 
on a mission from Mowbray into some neighbouring 
mining districts, we are shown other phases of our indus- 
trial civilisation. We see a gang issuing from a mine: 

Bands of stalwart men, broad-chested and muscular, wet 
with toil, and black as the children of the tropics ; troops of 
youth, alas ! of both sexes, though neither their raiment nor 
their language indicates the difference; all are clad in male 
attire ; and oaths that men might shudder at, issue from lips 
born to breathe words of sweetness. Yet these are to be, 
some are, the mothers of England ! But can we wonder at 
the hideous coarseness of their language, when we remember 
the savage rudeness of their lives ? Naked to the waist, an 
iron chain fastened to a belt of leather runs between their legs 
clad in canvas trousers, while on hands and feet an English 
girl, for twelve, sometimes for sixteen hours a day, hauls and 
hurries tubs of coals up subterranean roads, dark, precipitous, 
and plashy ; circumstances that seem to have escaped the 
notice of the Society for the Abolition of Negro Slavery. 
Those worthy gentlemen too appear to have been singularly 


258 SYBIL [chap, ix 

unconscious of the sufferings of the little trappers, which was 
remarkable, as many of them were in their own employ. 

See, too, these emerge from the bowels of the earth ! Infants 
of four and five years of age, many of them girls, pretty and 
still soft and timid ; entrusted with the fulfilment of respon- 
sible duties, and the nature of which entails on them the ne- 
cessity of being the earliest to enter the mines and the latest 
to leave it. Their labor indeed is not severe, for that would 
be impossible, but it is passed in darkness and in solitude. 
They endure that punishment which philosophical philan- 
thropy has invented for the direst criminals, and which those 
criminals deem more terrible than the death for which it is 

We are witnesses of a scene outside a truck -shop which 
is so harrowing as a picture of cruelty and oppression as 
to be almost unbearable. And then at the nadir of 
civilisation we find the squatters' town of Wodgate, with 
its natural aristocracy of master-workmen, who, though 
ruthless tyrants, are not unpopular with their vassals; 
its ' Bishop ' at the apex, the leader of all in ruthlessness 
and skill; and its people without names, morality, or 
religion, or believing at the best ' in our Lord and Saviour 
Pontius Pilate, who was crucified to save our sins, and in 
Moses, Goliath, and the rest of the Apostles.' For this 
travesty of a creed, as for nearly all that is most startling 
in Disraeli's pictures of industrial life, there is literal war- 
rant in the Blue Books of the time. 

The scene shifts to London in the year 1839, the year 
of the Chartist petition and of Disraeli's speech thereon. 
Walter Gerard is a leader in the Chartist Convention, and 
Sybil is in London with him. In a round of visits to 
members of Parliament which is made the occasion for 
the portrayal of a number of amusing types, Gerard 
meets with Egremont, and discovers that the man whom 
he had previously known as Franklin, and believed to be 
a journalist, is an aristocrat, the brother of the tyrant 
Lord Marney, and presumably, therefore, an enemy of 
the people. Egremont, however, has been pondering on 
all that he learnt at Mowbray, and is now in ardent sym- 
pathy with the cause of the people — sympathy, that is to 


say, with their deeper aspirations, combined with faith 
in the possibility of these aspirations being gradually 
realised ; for he is under no illusion about the crude 
methods of the demagogues or the crude remedies put 
forward by the people themselves. 

The People are not stroug [he says to Sybil] ; the People 
never can be strong. Their attempts at self-vindication will 
end only in their suffering and confusion. It is civilisation 
that has effected, that is effecting, this change. It is that in- 
creased knowledge of themselves that teaches the educated 
their social duties. There is a dayspring in the history of 
this nation, which perhaps those only who are on the moun- 
tain tops can as yet recognise. You deem you are in darkness, 
and I see a dawn. The new generation of the aristocracy of 
England are not tyrants, not oppressors, Sybil, as you persist 
in believing. Their intelligence, better than that, their hearts, 
are open to the responsibility of their position. But the work 
that is before them is no holiday -work. It is not the fever of 
superficial impulse that can remove the deep-fixed barriers 
of centuries of ignorance and crime. Enough that their sym- 
pathies are awakened; time and thought will bring the rest. 
They are the natural leaders of the People, Sybil ; believe me 
they are the only ones. 

Sybil, who at first is full of prejudice and suspicion in 
presence of the newly-discovered aristocrat, and thinks 
that the gulf between them is impassable, is gradually 
won over by Egremont's devotion. The awakening and 
progress of her love for him are treated with the delicacy 
which Disraeli has always at command in such a situa- 
tion, and so that no breath of commonplace passion 
touches a figure so ethereally pure and spiritual in concep- 
tion. It is Egremont's devotion to the cause she has at 
heart rather than to herself that awakens Sybil's interest. 
The turning-point is his speech on the Chartist petition, in 
that debate in the House of Commons which had been 
otherwise so disappointing. 

Yes ! there was one voice that had sounded in that proud 
Parliament, that, free from the slang of faction, had dared to 
express immortal truths : the voice of a noble, who, without 
being a demagogue, had upheld the popular cause ; had pro- 

260 SYBIL [chap, ix 

nounced his conviction that the rights of labor were as sacred 
as those of property ; that if a difference were to be estab- 
lished, the interests of the living wealth ought to be preferred ; 
who had declared that the social happiness of the millions 
should be the first object of a statesman, and that, if this were 
not achieved, thrones and dominions, the pomp and power of 
courts and empires, were alike worthless. 

When the Chartist crisis comes, Egremont is able to 
render great services to Sybil, as well as to her father, 
who has, however, to undergo a lengthy term of imprison- 
ment. Though gratitude is now added to Sybil's other 
emotions, Egremont's suit still appears to be hopeless ; 
but three years later he wins her consent, after rescuing 
her fi'om imminent peril during a strike riot in Lancashire, 
in tlie course of which Gerard and Lord Marney are 
killed, and Mowbray Castle sacked and burnt. Egre- 
mont by his brother's death has become Earl of Marney ; 
and quite needlessly, though in accordance with the 
Disraelian practice of piling fortune upon fortune, Sybil 
is now herself proved to be of noble blood, and the real 
inheritor of the great estates attached to Mowbray Castle. 
Before the curtain falls all our other friends are happily 
provided for ; and even the tension of the general distress 
is relaxed, for, as the author slyly tells us, ' the great 
measures of Sir Robert Peel, which produced three good 
harvests, have entirely revived trade.' 

Sybil has many faults. There are scenes of mere meljo- 
drama scattered through its pages ; the dialogues of low 
life are often rather Cockney than genuine North-country, 
and even regarded as Cockney are not very happy ; and 
the character of Morley, the socialist editor, is a great 
and obvious failure. He is completely incoherent, at one 
moment a kindly and well-meaning theorist, at another 
a melodramatic villain. There is no character in the 
book so arresting as Sidonia in Coningshy, and Sidonia 
does not reappear. With his millions, his lack of sym- 
pathy, and his purely intellectual outlook, he would have 
been completely out of harmony with the spirit and 
motive of the novel. The part he played in Coningshy is 


filled by Sybil herself; and Sybil, though very winning, is 
almost too impersonal and too purely ethereal to awaken 
the deepest interest. 

But the defects of the book are far outweighed by its 
merits. If Sidonia is missing, our old friends Taper and 
Tadpole reappear, and delight us by their naive and 
elementary plotting. It is, indeed, in the chapters of 
social and political satire that Disraeli here, as always, 
is found at his best. Nothing could excel the picture of 
the scramble for office after the Jamaica division of 1839, 
with the subsequent disappointment of the hopes of the 
intriguers by the Bedchamber crisis. Admirable, too, 
are the great political ladies who ' think they can govern 
the world by what they call their social influences.' There 
is first Lady St. Julians, who represents the famous Sarah, 
Lady Jersey, and whose theory of political motives is so 
simple and so cynical. 

People get into Parliament to get on; their aims are in- 
definite. If they have indulged in hallucinations about place 
before they enter the House, they are soon freed from such 
distempered fancies ; they find they have no more talent than 
other people, and if they had, they learn that power, patron- 
age, and pay are reserved for us and our friends. Well then, 
like practical men, they look to some result, and they get it. 
They are asked out to dinner more than they would be ; they 
move rigmarole resolutions at nonsensical public meetings ; 
and they get invited with their women to assemblies at their 
leader's, where they see stars and blue ribbons, and above all, 
us, who, they little think, in appearing on such occasions, 
make the greatest conceivable sacrifice. . . . Ask them to 
a ball, and they will give you their votes ; invite them to 
dinner, and, if necessary, they will rescind them ; but cultivate 
them, remember their wives at assemblies, and call their 
daughters, if possible, by their right names ; and they will not 
only change their principles or desert the party for you, but 
subscribe their fortunes, if necessary, and lay down their lives 
in your service. 

Then there is the more attractive Marchioness of 
Deloraine, who is intended as a portrait of Disraeli's 
friend Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry. ^ 

1 A copy of Sybil which he sent to Lady Londonderry led to the revival 
of a friendship which had been in abeyance since his marriage. 

262 SYBIL [chap, ix 

She had great knowledge of society, and some acquaintance 
with liuman nature, wliieh she fancied she had fathomed to 
its centre ; she piqued herself upon her tact, and indeed she 
was very (piick, but she was so energetic that her art did not 
always conceal itself; very worldly, she was nevertheless not 
devoid of impulse ; she was animated, and would have been 
extremely agreeable, if she had not restlessly aspired to wit ; 
and would certainly have exercised much more influence in 
society, if she had not been so anxious to show it. 

Thirdly, there is Lady Firebrace, from whom nothing 
appeared to be concealed, either in the inmost mind of 
the Sovereign, the cabinets of the Whigs, or the clubs of 
the Tories. 

' I would sooner meet any woman in London than Lady 
Firebrace,' said Mr, Berners ; ' she makes me uneasy for the 
day ; she contrives to convince me that the whole world are 
employed behind my back in abusing or ridiculing me.' 

' It is her way,' said Egerton ; ' she proves her zeal by show- 
ing you that you are odious. It is very successful with people 
of weak nerves. Scared at their general unpopularity, they 
seek refuge with the very person who at the same time assures 
them of their odium and alone believes it unjust. She rules 
that poor old goose. Lady Gramshawe, who feels that Lady 
Firebrace makes her life miserable, but is convinced that if 
she break with the torturer, she loses her only friend.' 

Other characters in Si/bil that live in the memory are 
Lady Firebrace's husband, Sir Vavasour, the baronet 
whose great aim in life is the vindication of the rights of 
his order until his zeal is quenched in the glory of a higher 
title; Baptist Hatton, the peerage lawyer, and his strangely 
contrasted brother, the Bishop of Hellhouse Yard; the 
Ladies Joan and Maud Fitz-Warene ; Captain Grouse, the 
parasite, who was 

a kind of aide-de-camp of the earl, killed birds and carved 
them, played billiards with him and lost, had, indeed, every 
accomplishment that could please woman or ease man, could 
sing, dance, draw, make artificial flies, break horses, exercise 
a supervision over stewards and bailiffs, and make everybody 
comfortable by taking everything on his own shoulders : 

and finally the generic portrait of 

1845] SHOTS AT PEEL 263 

those middle-aged nameless gentlemen of easy circumstances 
who haunt clubs, and dine a great deal at each other's houses 
and chambers ; men who travel regularly a little and gossip 
regularly a great deal ; who lead a sort of facile, slipshod exist- 
ence, doing nothing, yet miglitily interested in what others 
do; great critics of little things; profuse in minor luxuries, 
and inclined to the respectable practice of a decorous profli- 
gacy ; peering through the window of a club-house as if they 
were discovering a planet ; and usually much excited about 
things with which they have no concern, and personages who 
never heard of them. 

Some of the humbler characters are perhaps less surely 
drawn than those in politics and society ; though, in 
spite of his love of grandeur, Disraeli had a remarkable 
power of entering into the minds and feelings of the poor, 
and exhibits it conspicuously in many of his pictures of 
low life in Sybil. 

'I understand he is crotchety,' says Mr. Egerton of 
Mr. Charles Egremont. ' Well, that will not do for Peel. 
He does not like crotchety men,' Mr. Berners replies. 
This is one of several shots at the Minister which betray 
Disraeli's growing resentment. Elsewhere, in a bitter 
aside, he writes of ' the times in which we live . . . when 
there is no treason except voting against a Minister, 
who, though he may have changed all the policy which 
you have been elected to support, expects your vote and 
confidence all the same.' But most noteworthy of all is 
the Aristophauic outburst against the solemn humbug of 
politics, of which Peel was the incarnation, in the follow- 
ing dialogue between ' a gentleman of Downing Street ' 
and Mr. Hoaxem: 

' Well, Mr. Hoaxem,' said the gentleman in Downing Street, 
as that faithful functionary entered, ' there are some deputa- 
tions I understand to-day. You must receive them, as I am 
going to Windsor. What are they ? ' 

'There are only two, sir, of moment. The rest I could 
easily manage.' 

* And these two ? ' 

' In the first place, there is our friend Colonel Bosky, the 
members for the county of Calfshire, and a deputation of 
tenant farmers. . . .' 

264 SYBIL [ciiAP. ix 

* Well, jou know what to say,' said the gentleman in Downing 
Street. 'Tell them genei'ally, that they are quite mistaken; 
prove to them particularly that my only object has been to 
render protection more ])rotective, by making it practical, and 
divesting it of the surplusage of odium ; . . . and that as for 
the income-tax, they will be amply compensated for it, by their 
diminished cost of living through the agency of that very 
tariff of which they are so superficially complaining.' 

' Their diminished cost of living ! ' said Mr. Hoaxem, a little 
confused. ' Would not that assurance, I humbly suggest, clash 
a little with my previous demonstration that we had arranged 
that no reduction of prices should take place ? ' 

' Not at all ; your previous demonstration is of course true, 
but at the same time you must impress upon them the neces- 
sity of general views to form an opinion of particular instances. 
As for example, a gentleman of five thousand pounds per 
annum pays to the income-tax, which by-the-bye always call 
property-tax, one hundred and fifty pounds a-year. Well, I 
have materially reduced the duties on eight hundred articles. 
The consumption of each of those articles by an establishment 
of five thousand pounds per annum cannot be less than one 
pound per article. The reduction of price cannot be less than 
a moiety ; therefore a saving of four hundred per annum ; 
which, placed against the deduction of the property-tax, 
leaves a clear increase of income of two hundred and fifty 
pounds per annum ; by which you see that a property -tax, 
in fact, increases income. 

* I see,' said Mr. Hoaxem, with an admiring glance. ' And 
what am I to say to the deputation of the manufacturers of 
Mowbray, complaining of the great depression of trade, and 
the total want of remunerating profits ? ' 

* You must say exactly the reverse,' said the gentleman in 
Downing Street. ' Show them how much I have done to pro- 
mote the revival of trade. First of all, in making provisions 
cheaper ; cutting off at one blow half the protection on corn, 
as, for example, at this moment under the old law the duty 
on foreign wheat would have been twenty-seven shillings a 
quarter; under the new law it is thirteen. To be sure, no 
wheat could come in at either price, but that does not alter 
the principle. Then, as to live cattle, show how I have entirely 
opened the trade with the Continent in live cattle. . . . This 
cheapness of provisions will permit them to com])ete with the 
foreigner in all neutral markets, in time beat them in their 
own. It is a complete compensation, too, for the property- 
tax, which, impress upon them, is a great experiment and 
entirely for their interests. Ring the changes on great 
measures and great experiments till it is time to go down and 


make a House. Your official duties, of course, must not be 
interfered with. They will take the hint. I have no doubt 
you will get through the business very well, Mr. Hoaxem, 
particularly if you be "frank and explicit"; that is the right 
line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to 
confuse the minds of others. Good morning ! ' 

' That the author is a man of talent there can be no 
doubt,' said a reviewer of Sybil, ' and scarcely any that 
if he had deeper passions and a larger heart he would be 
a man of genius.' Disraeli's most conspicuous limita- 
tions as an artist are, indeed, a certain lack of emotional 
depth, of warmth in his sympathy and geniality in his 
laughter — all associated with a tendency to look at life 
too exclusively through the eyes of ambition. But these 
limitations are less visible in Sybil than in any other of 
his novels. For once he came near forgetting himself in 
the enthusiasm of occupation with his subject. ' The 
sincerest of his novels ' is the verdict, already quoted, of 
one eminent critic. If the satire of the rich and powerful 
is unsparing, it is relieved by a sympathy with the poor 
and lowly, of which no one can fail to see the depth and 
sincerity. Nor, though the attack on the existing order, 
or, rather, the existing temper, in politics and society is 
more daring than in Coningsby, and the satire more pun- 
gent, is there any excess of gloom or bitterness in the 
book. The most lurid scenes in the panorama of indus- 
trial life are relieved by genuine touches of humour and 
pathos ; and if we are shown the darkness, there is always 
light to make it visible. Against the mill-owners Shuffle 
and Screw there is to be set Mr. Trafford ; against the 
tyrant Lord Marney there is to be set his brother Charles 
Egremont ; against the Vicar, who was Lord Marney's 
model of a priest because 'he left everybody alone,' 
there is to be set Aubrey St. Lys. We see, in fact, the 
manufacturers, the aristocracy, and the Church, all 
awakening to a sense of duty in the new generation. 

' The author of Sybil,' says Lord Morley, ' seems to 
have apprehended the real magnitude, and even the 
nature, of the social crisis [brought about by the rapid 

266 SYBIL [CHAP, ix 

growth of an industrial population] . Mr. Disraeli's brood- 
ing imaginativeness of conception gave him a view of the 
extent of the social revolution as a whole, whicb was 
wider, if it did not go deeper, than that of any other con- 
temporary observer/ 1 To have rightly grasped the 
problem was no slight step towards finding a solution. 
Disraeli in practice was earnest in his purpose to seek 
and find a remedy for the ailment of which his diagnosis 
was so sure ; but from the point of view of art it matters 
little that the remedy suggested in the novel is not very 
definite. Comprehension and cure, he tells us at the end, 
go hand in hand ; ' it is the past alone that can explain 
the present, and it is youth that alone can mould the 
remedial future.' Whatever it be as social or political 
theory, the conception of the multitude being emanci- 
pated by the energy and devotion of our youth from their 
long yoke of bondage, and converted into a privileged 
and prosperous people, is in the true romantic manner. 
' We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent 
can no longer be synonymous. We must prepare for the 
coming hour. The claims of the future are represented 
by suffering millions, and the Youth of a Nation are the 
trustees of posterity.' 

1 Life of Cohden, I., p. 297. Lord Morley proceeds : ' To accidents of his 
position in society and necessities of personal ambition, it must, I suppose, 
be attributed that one who conceived so truly the -seriousness of the problem, 
should have brought nothing better to its solution than the childish bathos 
of Young England. ' Tliis sentence was written more than thirty years ago, 
and it is perhaps best regarded as an attempt, by a writer who had just 
been betrayed into needless generosity to a political opponent, to restore 
the political balance. No one knows better than Lord Morley himself that 
to have given a sincere and vivid picture of the social state of England was, 
even in the field of practice, a very great achievement ; and whatever point 
there may be in the gibe at Young England, Lord Morley does not explain 
■what Disraeli could have done either as novelist or statesman more than 
in fact he did. Before Sybil appeared Young England had practically 
ceased to exist, but Disraeli's exertions in the cause of social regeneration 
run through his subsequent life. Lord Morley in his book proceeds at 
once to show that, Cobden\s laisxer faire solution, which it was his immediate 
husiness to exalt, left untouched the whole question of the relations between 
capital and labour, and that the Factory Acts and other social legislation 
which Cobden opposed were necessary to progress. This legislation Disraeli 
strenuously supported while he was only a private member ; and when he 
finally came to power he put, as we shall see, the coping-stone on the edifice. 



Coningsby and Sybil are not only works of art, but the 
manifesto of Young England, and, as such, political docu- 
ments. Woven into their texture there is a theory of 
English history and of modern English politics which is 
nowhere else in Disraeli's works so explicitly developed, 
though we have seen it in the Vindication in an embry- 
onic form. As expounded in Coningsby and Sybil, it 
bears some marks of a merely transient bias due to the 
esoteric influence of Young England ; but in all essentials 
it represents Disraeli's permanent conception of what may 
be called the Tory Idea, and of the background of his- 
tory in which he found that idea ; and it is worth dis- 
engaging, as it lies at the root of all his convictions and 
conduct as a statesmen. 

Let us begin with the following passage from the con- 
cluding pages of Sybil: 

The written history of our country for the last ten reigns 
has been a mere phantasma, giving to the origin and conse- 
quence of public transactions a character and color in every 
respect dissimilar to their natural form and hue. In this 
mighty mystery all thoughts and things have assumed an 
aspect and title contrary to their real quality and style: Oli- 
garchy has been called Liberty ; an exclusive Priesthood has 
been christened a National Church ; Sovereignty has been the 
title of something that has had no dominion, while absolute 
power has been wielded by those who profess themselves the 
servants of the People. In the selfish strife of factions, two 
great existences have been blotted out of the history of Eng- 
land, the Monarch and the Multitude ; as the power of the 


268 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

Crown has diminished, the privileges of the People have dis- 
appeared ; till at length the sceptre has become a pageant, 
and its subject has degenerated again into a serf.^ 

The real story opens with an event anterior even to 
' the last ten reigns,' the fall of the Papacy in England, 
and the simultaneous foundation of the modern English 

It is in the plunder of the Church that we must seek for the 
primary cause of our political exclusion. . . . That unhal- 
lowed booty created a factitious aristocracy, ever fearful that 
they might be called upon to regorge their sacrilegious spoil. 
To prevent this, they took refuge in political religionism, and 
paltering with the distiu^bed consciences, or the pious fantasies, 
of a portion of the people, they organised them into religious 
sects. These became the unconscious Prsetorians of their ill- 
gotten domains. At the head of these religionists, they have 
continued ever since to govern, or powerfully to infliience, 
this country. They have in that time pulled down thrones 
and churches, changed dynasties, abrogated and remodelled 
parliaments ; they have disfranchised Scotland, and confis- 
cated Ireland. One may admire the vigor and consistency 
of the Whig party, and recognise in their career that unity of 
purpose that can only spring from a great principle; but the 
Whigs introduced sectarian religion, and sectarian religion 
led to political exclusion.^ 

In the pursuit of their policy of political religionism, 
the great families came into conflict with the Crown and 
the Church of England, which interposed to save the 
Catholics from Puritan persecution, but only brought 
upon themselves odium and mistrust. From one point 
of view, Charles I. nuiy be regarded as the victim of ' the 
dark and relentless bigotry of Calvinism.' If 'he had 
hanged all the Catholic priests that Parliament petitioned 
him to execute, he would never have lost his crown. '^ 
From another point of view, this ' virtuous and able mon- 
arch ' laid down his life in the cause of the poor, martyred 

because, among other benefits projected for his people, he was 
of opinion that it was more for their advantage that the 

1 Sybil, Bk. VI. ch. 13. 2 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

^ Coningsby, Bk. III. ch. 5. 

1844-1845] CHARLES I. AND JAMES II. 269 

economic service of the state should be supplied by direct 
taxation levied by an individual known to all, than by in- 
direct taxation, raised by an irresponsible and fluctuating 
assembly. But, thanks to parliamentary patriotism, the 
people of England were saved from ship-money, which money 
the wealthy paid, and only got in its stead the customs and 
excise, which the poor mainly supply. Rightly was King 
Charles surnamed the Martyr ; for he was the holocaust of 
direct taxation. Never yet did man lay down his heroic life 
for so great a cause : the cause of the Church and the cause 
of the Poor.^ 

The great object of the Whig leaders from the first 
movement under Hampden was, in words quoted already, 
' to establish in England a high aristocratic republic on 
the model of the Venetian, then the study and admiration 
of all speculative politicians.' ' We should have had the 
Venetian Republic in 1640 had it not been for the Puri- 
tans.' ^ Geneva on that occasion prevailed over Venice, 
but the turn of Venice came in 1688. The Revolution of 
that year has been much misunderstood. ' That the 
last of the Stuarts had any other object in his impolitic 
manoeuvres than an impracticable scheme to blend the 
two Churches there is now authority to disbelieve ; ' nor 
is it credible ' that the English nation (at all times a 
religious and Catholic people, but who even in the days 
of the Plantagenets were anti-papal) were in any danger 
in his time of again falling under the yoke of the Pope 
of Rome.' 

If James II. had really attempted to re-establish popery in 
this country, the English people, who had no hand in his over- 
throw, would doubtless soon have stirred and secured their 
* Catholic and Apostolic Church,' independent of any foreign 
dictation ; the Church to which they still regularly profess 
their adherence ; and, being a practical people, it is possible 
that they might have achieved their object and yet retained 
their native princes ; under which circumstances we might 
have been saved from the triple blessings of Venetian politics, 
Dutch finance, and French wars.^ 

I Sybil, Bk. IV. ch. I. 2 Coningsby, Bk. VII. ch. 4. 

8 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

270 THE TORY IDEA [chap, y 

James's indiscretions gave, however, a colour to the 
pretext that the cause of civil and religious liberty, ' the 
cause for which Hampden had died in the field, and Rus- 
sell on the scaffold,' was once more in danger ; and under 
this pretext, but really ' alarmed at the prevalent impres- 
sion that King James intended to insist on the restitution 
of the Church estates to their original purposes, to wit, 
the education of the people and the maintenance of the 
poor,' the great Whig families joined 'in calling over the 
Prince of Orange and a Dutch army, to vindicate those 
popular principles which, somehow or other, the people 
would never support.' ^ Religious liberty, when achieved, 
'took the shape of a discipline which at once anathema- 
tised a great portion of the nation, and, virtually estab- 
lishing Puritanism in Ireland, laid the foundation of those 
mischiefs which are now endangering the Empire.' Civil 
liberty took the shape of the Venetian constitution, 
though not without a struggle. William III., when he 
became King, did not prove a pliant instrument in the 
hands of tlie oligarchy. 

He told the Whig leaders, * I will not be a Doge.' He 
balanced parties ; he baffled them as the Puritans baffled them 
fifty years before. The reign of Anne was a struggle between 
the Venetian and the English systems. Two great Whig 
nobles, Argyle and Somerset, worthy of seats in the Council 
of Ten, forced their Sovereign on her deathbed to change the 
ministry. They accomplished their object. They brought 
in a new family on their own terms. George I. was a Doge ; 
George II. was a Doge; they were what William III., a great 
man, would not be. George III. tried not to be a Doge, but 
it was impossible materially to resist the deeply-laid combina- 
tion. He might get rid of the Whig magnificoes, but he could 
not rid himself of the Venetian constitution. And a Venetian 
constitution did govern England from the accession of the 
House of Hanover until 1832.* 

The motive of ' the Dutch invasion of 1688 ' was on the 
side of the invaders wholly financial. 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 2 Coningsby, Bk. V. ch. 2. 

1844-1845] THE REVOLUTION 271 

The Prince of Orange had found that the resources of 
Holland, however considerable, were inadequate to sustain 
him in his internecine rivalry with the great sovereign of 
France. In an authentic conversation which has descended 
to us, held by William at the Hague with one of the prime 
abettors of the invasion, the prince did not disguise his 
motives; he said, 'Nothing but such a constitution as you 
have in England can have the credit that is necessary to raise 
such sums as a great war requires.' The prince came, and 
used our constitution for his purpose : he introduced into 
England the system of Dutch finance. The principle of 
that system was to mortgage industry in order to protect 
property : abstractly, nothing can be conceived more un- 
just ; its practice in England has been equally injurious. . . . 
It has made debt a national habit ; it has made credit the 
ruling power, not the exceptional auxiliary, of all transac- 
tions; it has introduced a loose, inexact, haphazard, and dis- 
honest spirit in the conduct of both public and private life ; 
a spirit dazzling and yet dastardly ; reckless of consequences 
and yet shrinking from responsibility. And in the end, it 
has so overstimulated the energies of the population to main- 
tain the material engagements of the state, and of society at 
large, that the moral condition of the people has been entirely 
lost sight of.^ 

To William we also owe the tradition of hostility to 
France which ranks with Venetian politics and Datcli 
finance as the third of the triple blessings conferred on 
us by the Revolution. Against these, ' in their happiest 
days, and with their happiest powers, struggled the 
three greatest of English statesmen — Bolingbroke, 
Shelburne, and, lastly, the son of Chatham.' Bolingbroke 
had been dealt with at length in the Vindication, but in 
a list of twenty English statesmen given in that tract 
neither Shelburne nor Pitt had even been mentioned. 
Shelburne, we are told in /Sybil, is ' one of the suppressed 
characters of English history.' As early as 1842 Disraeli 
had discovered that he was 'the most remarkable man 
of his age,'^ and he now introduces him as 'the ablest 
and most accomplished minister of the eighteenth 
century.' After endeavouring to establish a sort of 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 2 see p. 133. 

272 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

apostolic succession between Bolingbroke and Shel- 
burne, through Carteret whose daughter Shelburne had 
married, he proceeds : 

Lord Shelburne, influenced probably by the example and 
the traditionary precepts of his eminent father-in-law, ap- 
pears early to have held himself aloof from the patrician 
connexion, and entered public life as the follower of Bute 
in the first great effort of George III. to rescue the sover- 
eignty from what Lord Chatham called ' the Great Revolution 
families.' He became in time a member of Lord Chatham's 
last administration ; one of the strangest and most unsuccess- 
ful efforts to aid the grandson of George II. in his struggle 
for political emancipation. Lord Shelburne adopted from the 
first the Bolingbroke system ; a real royalty, in lieu of the 
chief magistracy; a permanent alliance with France, instead 
of the whig scheme of viewing in that power the natural 
enemy of England ; and, above all, a plan of commercial 
freedom, the germ of which may be found in the long- 
maligned negotiations of Utrecht, but which, in the instance 
of Lord Shelburne, were soon in time matured by all the 
economical science of Europe, in which he was a proficient. 

Lord Shelburne seems to have been of a reserved and some- 
what astute disposition : deep and adroit, he was however 
brave and firm. His knowledge was extensive and even pro- 
found. He was a great linguist; he pursued both literary 
and scientific investigations ; his house was frequented by men 
of letters, especially those distinguished by their political 
abilities or economical attainments. He maintained the most 
extensive private correspondence of any public man of his 
time. The earliest and most authentic information reached 
him from all courts and quarters of Europe ; and it was a coin- 
mon phrase, that the minister of the day sent to him often 
for the important information which the Cabinet could not 
itself command. Lord Shelburne was the first great minister 
who comprehended the rising importance of the middle class, 
and foresaw in its future power a bulwark for the throne 
against 'the Great Revolution families.' Of his qualities in 
council we have no record ; there is reason to believe that his 
administrative ability was conspicuous ; his speeches prove 
that, if not supreme, he was eminent in the art of parliamen- 
tary disputation, while they show on all the questions discussed 
a richness and variety of information, with which the speeches 
of no statesman of that age except Mr. Burke can compare.* 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

1844-18i5] SHELBURNE AND BURKE 273 

The place of Burke himself in Disraeli's historical 
scheme is explained in the following passage : 

The situation of the Venetian party in the wane of the 
eighteenth century had become extremely critical. . . . 
Whiggism was putrescent in the nostrils of the nation ; we 
were probably on the eve of a bloodless yet important 
revolution ; when Rockingham, a virtuous magnifico, alarmed 
and disgusted, resolved to revive something of the pristine 
purity and high-toned energy of the old whig connexion, 
appealed to his ' new generation ' from a degenerate age, 
arrayed under his banner the generous youth of the whig 
families, and was fortunate to enlist in the service the supreme 
genius of Edmund Burke. 

Burke effected for the whigs what Bolingbroke in a preceding 
age had done for the tories : he restored the moral existence 
of the party. He taught them to recur to the ancient prin- 
ciples of their connexion, and suffused those principles with 
all the delusive splendor of his imagination. He raised the 
tone of their public discourse ; he breathed a high spirit into 
their public acts. ... He fought the whig fight with a two- 
edged weapon : he was a great writer ; as an orator he was tran- 
scendent. In a dearth of that public talent for the possession 
of which the whigs have generally been distinguished, Burke 
came forward and established them alike in the parliament 
and the country. And what was his reward ? No sooner had 
a young and dissolute noble, who, with some of the aspirations 
of a Ctesar, oftener realised the conduct of a Catiline, appeared 
on the stage, and, after some inglorious tergiversation, adopted 
their colors, than they transferred to him the command which 
had been won by wisdom and genius, vindicated by unrivalled 
knowledge, and adorned by accomplished eloquence. . . . 

Hard necessity made Mr. Burke svibmit to the yoke, but 
the humiliation could never be forgotten. Nemesis favours 
genius; the inevitable hour at length arrived. A voice like 
the Apocalypse sounded over England, and even echoed in 
all the courts of Europe. Burke poured forth the vials of his 
hoarded vengeance into the agitated heart of Christendom ; 
he stimulated the panic of a world by the wild pictures of his 
inspired imagination ; he dashed to the ground the rival who 
had robbed him of his hard-earned greatness ; rent in twain 
the proud oligarchy that had dared to use and to insult him ; 
and, followed with servility by the haughtiest and the most 
timid of its members, amid the frantic exultation of his 
country, he placed his heel upon the neck of the ancient 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

VOL. II T • 

274 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

Lord Shelburne had been 'the man selected by 
George III. as his champion against the Venetian party 
after the termination of the American war.' 

The prosecution of that war they had violently opposed, 
though it had originated in their own policy. First minister 
in the House of Lords, Shelburne entrusted the lead in the 
House of Commons to his Chancellor of the Exchequer, the 
youthful Pitt. The administration was brief, but it was not 
inglorious. It obtained peace, and, for the first time since 
the Revolution, introduced into modern debate the legitimate 
principles on which commerce should be conducted. It fell 
before the famous Coalition with which ' the Great Revolution 
families ' commenced their fiercest and their last contention 
for the patrician government of royal England. 

In the heat of that great strife, the king, in the second 
hazardous exercise of his prerogative, entrusted the perilous 
command to Pitt. Why Lord Shelburne on that occasion was 
set aside, will perhaps always remain a mysterious passage 
of our political history, nor have we space on the present 
occasion to attempt to penetrate its motives. Perhaps the 
monarch, with a sense of the rising sympathies of his people, 
was prescient of the magic power of youth in touching the 
heart of a nation. Yet it would not be an unprofitable specu- 
lation, if for a moment we pause to consider what might have 
been the consequences to our country if Mr. Pitt had been 
content for a season again to lead the Commons under Lord 
Shelburne, and to have secured for England the unrivalled 
knowledge and dexterity of that statesman in the conduct of 
our affairs during the confounding fortunes of the French 
revolution. Lord Shelburne was the only English minister 
competent to the place : he was the only public man who had 
the previous knowledge requisite to form accurate conclusions 
on such a conjuncture; his remaining speeches on the subject 
attest the amplitude of his knowledge and the accuracy of his 
views ; and in the rout of Jena, or the agony of Austerlitz, one 
cannot refrain from picturing the shade of Shelburne haunting 
the ('abinet of Pitt, as the ghost of Canning is said occasionally 
to linger about the Speaker's chair, and smile sarcastically on 
the conscientious mediocrities who pilfered his hard-earned 

During the happier years of Pitt's own career 'the 
influence of the mind of Shelburne may be traced through- 
out his policy.' 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

1844-1845J THE YOUNGER PITT 275 

It was Lansdowne House that made Pitt acquainted with 
Dr. Price, a dissenting minister, whom Lord Shelburne, when 
at the head of affairs, courageously offered to make his private 
secretary, and who furnished Mr. Pitt, among other important 
suggestions, with his original plan of the sinking fund. The 
commercial treaties of '87 were struck in the same mint, and 
are notable as the first effort made by the English govern- 
ment to emancipate the country from the restrictive policy 
which had been introduced by the ' glorious revolution ' ; 
memorable epoch, that presented England at the same time 
with a corn-law and a public debt. But on no subject was the 
magnetic influence of the descendant of Sir William Petty 
more decided than in the resolution of his pupil to curb the 
power of the patrician party by an infusion from the middle 
classes into the government of the country. Hence the origin 
of Mr. Pitt's famous and long-misconceived plans of parlia- 
mentary reform. Was he sincere, is often asked by those who 
neither seek to discover the causes, nor are capable of calcu- 
lating the effects of public transactions. Sincere ! Why, he 
was struggling for his existence ! And when, baffled, first by 
the Venetian party, and afterwards by the panic of Jacobinism, 
he was forced to forego his direct purpose, he still endeavoured 
partially to effect it by a circuitous process. He created a 
plebeian aristocracy and blended it with the patrician oli- 
garchy. He made peers of second-rate squires and fat graziers. 
He caught them in the alleys of Lombard Street, and clutched 
4liem from the counting-houses of Cornhill. When Mr. Pitt, 
in an age of Bank restriction, declared that every man with 
an estate of ten thousand a-year had a right to be a peer, he 
sounded the knell of ' the cause for which Hampden had died 
on the field, and Sydney on the scaffold.' 

In ordinary times the pupil of Shelburne would have raised 
this country to a state of great material prosperity, and re- 
moved or avoided many of those anomalies which now perplex 
us ; but he was not destined for ordinary times ; and, though 
his capacity was vast and his spirit lofty, he had not that 
passionate and creative genius required by an age of revolu- 
tion. The French outbreak was his evil daemon : he had not 
the means of calculating its effect upon Europe. He had but 
a meagre knowledge himself of continental politics : he was 
assisted by an inefficient diplomacy. His mind was lost in a 
convulsion of which he neither could comprehend the causes 
nor calculate the consequences ; and, forced to act, he acted 
not only violently, but in exact opposition to [? accordance 
with] the very system he was called into political existence 
to combat; he appealed to the fears, the prejudices, and the 
passions of a privileged class, revived the old policy of the 

276 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

oligarchy he had extinguished, and plunged into all the ruin- 
ous excesses of French war and Dutch finance.^ 

From the death of the younger Pitt to 1825 ' the polit- 
ical history of England is a history of great events and 
little men.' ^ Among the statesmen that have figured in 
England since the accession of the present family, ' we may 
doubt whether there be one, with the exception, perhaps, 
of the Duke of Newcastle, who would have been a worthy 
colleague of the council of Mr. Perceval, or the early 
cabinet of Lord Liverpool.' 'Assuredly the genius of 
Bolingbroke and the sagacity of Walpole would have 
recoiled from such men.' 

This factious league had shuffled themselves into power 
by clinging to the skirts of a great minister, the last of 
Tory statesmen, but who, in the unparalleled and con- 
founding emergencies of his latter years, had been forced, 
unfortunately for England, to relinquish Toryism. His 
successors inherited all his errors without the latent genius, 
which in him might have still rallied and extricated him 
from the consequences of his disasters. His successors 
did not mei-ely inherit his errors ; they exaggerated, they 
caricatured them. They rode into power on a spring-tide 
of all the rampant prejudices and rancorous passions of 
their time. From the King to the boor their policy was a 
mere pandering to public ignorance. Impudently usurping 
the name of that party of which nationality, and therefore 
universality, is the essence, these pseudo-Tories made Exclu- 
sion the principle of their political constitution, and Restric- 
tion the genius of their commercial code. . . . 

The peace of Paris found the government of this country 
in the hands of a body of men of whom it is no exaggera- 
tion to say that they were ignorant of every principle of 
every branch of political science. So long as our domestic 
administration was confined merely to the raising of a revenue, 
they levied taxes with gross facility from the industry of a 
country too busy to criticise or complain. But when the 
excitement and distraction of war had ceased, and they were 
forced to survey the social elements that surroimded them, 
they seemed, for the first time, to have become conscious of 
their own incapacity. These men, indeed, were the mere 
children of routine. They prided themselves on being prac- 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. .3. 2 i^ia. 


tical men. In the language of this defunct school of statesmen, 
a practical man is a man who practises the blunders of his 

Now commenced that Condition-of-England Question of 
which our generation hears so much. During five-and-twenty 
j^ears every influence that can develop the energies and 
resources of a nation had been acting with concentrated stimu- 
lation on the British Isles. National peril and national glory; 
the perpetual menace of invasion, the continual triumph of 
conquest; the most extensive foreign commerce that was ever 
conducted by a single nation ; an illimitable currency ; an 
internal trade supported by swarming millions, whom manu- 
factures and inclosure-bills summoned into existence ; above 
all, the supreme control obtained by man over mechanic 
power, these are some of the causes of that rapid advance of 
material civilisation in England, to which the annals of the 
world can afford no parallel. But there was no proportionate 
advance in our moral civilisation. In the huvry-skurry of 
money-making, men-making, and machine-making, we had 
altogether outgrown, not the spirit, but the organisation, of 
our institutions. 

The peace came; the stimulating influences suddenly ceased; 
the people, in a novel and painful position, found themselves 
without guides. They went to the ministry ; they asked to 
h& guided; they asked to be governed. Commerce requested 
a code; trade required a currency; the unfranchised subject 
solicited his equal privilege ; suffering labour clamored for 
its rights ; a new race demanded education. What did the 
ministry do ? 

They fell into a panic. Having fulfilled during their lives 
the duties of administration, they were frightened because 
they were called upon, for the first time, to perform the func- 
tions of government. Like all weak 'men, they had recourse 
to what they called strong measures. They determined to 
put down the multitude. They thought they were imitating 
Mr. Pitt, because they mistook disorganisation for sedition.^ 

Presently, however, 'the Arch-Mediocrity who pre- 
sided, rather than ruled, over this Cabinet of Mediocrities ' 
began to realise the necessity of importing into his 
Ministry talents and knowledge in order to equip it for 
the task of government. 

The Arch-Mediocrity had himself some glimmering tradi- 
tions of political science. He was sprung from a laborious 

^ Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

278 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

stock, had received some training, and though not a states- 
man, might be classed among those whom the Lord Keeper 
Williams used to call 'statemongers.' In a subordinate 
position his meagre diligence and his frigid method might 
not have been witliout value; but the qualities that he pos- 
sessed were misplaced; nor can any character be conceived 
less invested with the happy properties of a leader. In the 
conduct of public affairs his disposition was exactly the reverse 
of that which is the characteristic of great men. He was 
peremptory in little questions, and great ones he left open. 

In the natural course of events, in 1819 there ought to have 
been a change of government, and another party in the state 
should have entered into office ; but the Whigs, though they 
counted in their ranks at that period an unusual number of 
men of great ability, and formed, indeed, a compact and 
spirited opposition, were unable to contend against the new 
adjustment of borough influence which had occurred during 
the war, and under the protracted administration by which 
that war had been conducted. New families had arisen 
on the Tory side that almost rivalled old Newcastle himself 
in their electioneering management ; and it was evident that, 
unless some reconstruction of the House of Commons could 
be effected, the Whig party could never obtain a permanent 
hold of official power. Hence, from that period, the Whigs 
became Parliamentary Reformers. 

It was inevitable, therefore, that the country should be 
governed by the same party ; indispensable that the ministry 
should be renovated by new brains and blood. Accordingly, 
a Mediocrity, not without repugnance, was induced to with- 
draw, and the great name of Wellington supplied his place in 
council. . . . Another, and a very distinguished Mediocrity, 
who would not resign, was thrust out, and Mr. Peel became 
Secretary of State. ... A short time after this, a third 
and most distinguished Mediocrity died ; and Canning, whom 
they had twice worried out of the cabinet, where they had 
tolerated him some time in an obscure and ambiguous 
position, was recalled just in time from his impending banish- 
ment, installed in the first post in the Lower House, and 
intrusted with the seals of the Foreign Office. . . . 

The accession of Mr. Canning to the cabinet, in a position, 
too, of surpassing influence, soon led to a further weeding of 
the Mediocrities, and, among other introductions, to the 
memorable entrance of Mr. Huskisson. In this wise did that 
cabinet, once notable only for the absence of all those qualities 
which authorise the possession of power, come to be generally 
esteemed as a body of men, who, for parliamentary eloquence, 
official practice, political information, sagacity in council, and 


a due understanding of their epoch, were inferior to none that 
had directed the policy of the empire since the Revohition. 

If we survey the tenor of the policy of the Liverpool Cabinet 
during the latter moiety of its continuance, we shall find its 
characteristic to be a partial recurrence to those frank prin- 
ciples of government which Mr. Pitt had revived during the 
latter part of the last century from precedents that had been 
set us, either in practice or in dogma, during its earlier period, 
by statesmen who then not only bore the title, but professed 
the opinions, of Tories. Exclusive principles in the constitu- 
tion, and restrictive principles in commerce, have grown up 
together ; and have really nothing in common with the ancient 
character of our political settlement, or the manners and 
customs of the English people. Confidence in the loyalty of 
the nation, testified by munificent grants of rights and fran- 
chises, and favor to an expansive system of traffic, were dis- 
tinctive qualities of the English sovereignty, until the House 
of Commons usurped the better portion of its prerogatives. 
A widening of our electoral scheme, great facilities to com- 
merce, and the rescue of our Eoman (Catholic fellow-subjects 
from the Puritanic yoke, from fetters which have been 
fastened on them by English Parliaments in spite of the pro- 
tests and exertions of the English Sovereigns ; these were the 
three great elements and fundamental truths of the real Pitt 

We must not, however, assume that the Liverpool 
Cabinet in the later stages of its career was guided by any 
desire to recur to the principles of historical Toryism. 

That was not an epoch when statesmen cared to prosecute 
the investigation of principles. It was a period of happy and 
enlightened practice. A profounder policy is the offspring of 
a time like the present, when the original postulates of institu- 
tions are called in question. The Liverpool Cabinet uncon- 
sciously approximated to these opinions, because from careful 
experiment they were convinced of their beneficial tendency, 
and they thus bore an unintentional and impartial testimony 
to their truth. Like many men, who think they are inventors, 
they were only reproducing ancient wisdom. 

But one must ever deplore that this ministry, with all 
their talents and generous ardor, did not advance to prin- 
ciples. It is always perilous to adopt expediency as a guide ; 
but the choice may be sometimes imperative. These states- 
men, however, took expediency for their director, when prin- 

1 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

280 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

ciple would have given them all that expediency ensured, 
and much more. 

This ministry, strong in the confidence of the sovereign, 
the parliament, and the people, might, by the courageous 
promulgation of great historical truths, have gradually formed 
a public opinion, that would have permitted them to organise 
the Tory party on a broad, a permanent, and national basis. 
They might have nobly effected a complete settlement of 
Ireland, which a shattered section of this very cabinet was 
forced a few years after to do partially, and in an equivo- 
cating and equivocal manner. They might have concluded a 
satisfactory reconstruction of the third estate, without pro- 
ducing that convulsion with which, from its violent fabrica- 
tion, our social system still vibrates. Lastly, they might have 
adjusted the rights and properties of our national industries 
in a manner which would have prevented that fierce and fatal 
rivalry that is now disturbing every hearth of the United 

We may, therefore, visit on the ladies of this ministry the 
introduction of that new principle and power into our consti- 
tution which ultimately may absorb all, Agitation. This 
cabinet, then, with so much brilliancy on its surface, is the 
real parent of the Roman Catholic Association, the Political 
Unions, the Anti-Corn-Law League.^ 

The dispersion of 'this clever and showy Ministry' is a 
fine illustration of the singular influence of individual 
character — an influence that arises as often from the 
weakness of the character as from its strength. 

One morning the Arch-Mediocrity himself died. At the 
first blush, it would seem that little difficulties could be 
experienced in finding his substitute. His long occupation 
of the post proved, at any rate, that the qualification was not 
excessive. But this cabinet, with its serene and blooming 
visage, had been all this time charged with fierce and emulous 
ambitions. They waited the signal, but they waited in grim 
repose. The death of the nominal leader, whose formal 
superiority, wounding no vanity, and offending no pride, 
secured in their councils equality among the able, was the 
tocsin of their anarchy. There existed in this cabinet two 
men, who were resolved immediately to be prime ministers ; 
a third who was resolved eventually to be prime minister, 
but would at any rate occupy no ministerial post without 
the lead of a House of Parliament; and a fourth, who felt 

1 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

1844-1845] CANNING AND PEEL 281 

himself capable of being prime minister, but despaired of the 
revolution which could alone make him one ; and who found 
an untimely end when that revolution had arrived. 

Had Mr. Secretary Canning remained leader of the House 
of Commons under the Duke of Wellington, all that he would 
have gained by the death of Lord Liverpool was a master. 
Had the Duke of Wellington become Secretary of State under 
Mr. Canning he would have materially advanced his political 
position, not only by holding the seals of a high department in 
which he was calculated to excel, but by becoming leader of 
the House of Lords. But his Grace was induced by certain 
court intriguers to believe that the King would send for him, 
and he was also aware that Mr. Peel would no longer serve 
under any minister in the House of Commons. Under any 
circumstances it would have been impossible to keep the 
Liverpool Cabinet together.^ 

Disraeli's account of Peel's part in the intrigue against 
Canninsr has an interest of its own. 

We have seen that at an early period of his career Mr. Peel 
withdrew from official life. His course had been one of un- 
broken prosperity ; the hero of the University had become the 
favourite of the House of Commons. His retreat, therefore, 
was not prompted by chagrin. Nor need it have been sug- 
gested by a calculating ambition, for the ordinary course of 
events was fast bearing to him all to which man could aspire. 
One might rather suppose, that he had already gained suffi- 
cient experience, perhaps in his Irish Secretaryship, to make 
him pause in that career of superficial success which education 
and custom had hitherto chalked out for him, rather than 
the creative energies of his own mind. A thoughtful intellect 
may have already detected elements in our social system 
which required a finer observation, and a more unbroken 
study, than the gyves and trammels of office would permit. 
He may have discovered that the representation of the Uni- 
versity, looked upon in those days as the blue ribbon of the 
House of Commons, was a sufficient fetter without unneces- 
sarih^ adding to its restraint. He may have wished to reserve 
himself for a happier occasion, and a more progressive period. 
He may have felt the strong necessity of arresting himself in 
his rapid career of felicitous routine, to survey his position in 
calmness, and to comprehend the stirring age that was 
approaching. . . . 

Adopting this view of the position of Mr. Peel, strengthened 

1 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

282 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

as it is by his early withdrawal for awhile from the direction 
of public atfairs, it may not only be a charitable but a true 
estimate of the motives which influenced him in his conduct 
towards Mr. Canning, to conclude that he was not guided in 
that transaction by the disingenuous rivalry usually imputed 
to him. His statement in Parliament of the determining cir- 
cumstances of his conduct, coupled with his subsequent and 
almost immediate policy, may perhaps always leave this a 
painful and ambiguous passage in his career; but in passing 
judgment on public men, it behoves us ever to take large and 
extended views of their conduct ; and previous incidents will 
often satisfactorily explain subsequent events, which, without 
their illustrating aid, are involved in misapprehension or 

The struggle 'between the Duke of Wellington and 
"my dear Mr. Canning" ' ended unexpectedly in the 
victory of Canning ; but death soon removed him, and 
after the disappearance his successor, Lord Goderich, 'the 
transient and embarrassed phantom,' as he is called in 
Endymion^ the Duke's turn came. 

The Duke of Wellington brought to the post of first minister 
immortal fame ; a quality of success which would almost seem 
to include all others. His public knowledge was such as might 
be expected from one whose conduct already formed an im- 
portant portion of the history of his country. He had a 
personal and intimate acquaintance with the sovereigns and 
chief statesmen of Europe, a kind of information in which 
English ministers have generally been deficient, but without 
which the management of our external affairs must at the best 
be haphazard. He possessed administrative talents of the 
highest order. 

The tone of the age, the temper of the country, the great 
qualities and the high character of the minister, indicated a 
long and prosperous administration. The only individual in 
his Cabinet who, from a combination of circumstances rather 
than from any intellectual supremacy over his colleagues, was 
competent to be his rival, was content to be his successor. In 
his most aspiring moments, Mr. Peel, in all probability, aimed 
at no higher reach ; and with youth and the leadership of the 
House of Commons, one has no reason to be surprised at his 
moderation. The conviction that the Duke's government 
would only cease with the termination of his public career 

^ Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

1844-1845] WELLINGTON 283 

was so general, that, the moment he was installed in office, 
the whigs smiled on him ; political conciliation became the 
slang of the day, and the fusion of parties the babble of clubs 
and the tattle of boudoirs. 

How comes it, then, that so great a man, in so great a posi- 
tion, should have so signally failed ; should have broken up 
his government, wrecked his party, and so completely anni- 
hilated his political position, that, even with his historical 
reputation to sustain him, he can since only reappear in the 
councils of his sovereign in a subordinate, not to say equivocal, 
character ? 

With all those great qualities which will secure him a place 
in our history not perhaps inferior even to Marlborough, the 
Duke of Wellington has one deficiency which has been the 
stumbling-block of his civil career. Bishop Burnet, in specu- 
lating on the extraordinary influence of Lord Shaftesbury, 
and accounting how a statesman, so inconsistent in his conduct 
and so false to his confederates, should have so powerfully 
controlled his country, observes, 'His strength lay ix his 


Now that is exactly the kind of knowledge which the Duke 
of Wellington never possessed. . . . Throughout the brief but 
eccentric and tumultuous annals [of his administration] we 
see continual proof. ... In twenty-four months we find an 
aristocracy estranged, without a people being conciliated; 
while on two several occasions, first, the prejudices, and then 
the pretensions of the middle class, were alike treated with 
contumely. . . . This administration, which commenced in 
arrogance, ended in panic. ... The growl of reform was 
heard, but it was not very fierce. There was yet time to save 
himself. His grace precipitated a revolution which might 
have been delayed for half a century, and need never have 
occurred in so aggravated a form. He rather fled than retired. 
He commenced his ministry like Brennus, and finished it like 
the tall Gall sent to murder the rival of Sylla, but who dropped 
his weapon before the undaunted gaze of his intended victim.^ 

"We now reach a period when the history begins to be 
politics — the politics in which Disraeli had himself been 
an actor. The revolution which followed the fall of the 
Duke of Wellington overthrew the aristocracy, but it did 
not emancipate either the Crown or the people. Disraeli 
judged the Reform Act in the light of his doctrine of the 

1 Sybil, Bk. I. ch. 3. 

284 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

Three Estates of the Realm, on which, as we have seen, 
he had insisted in the Tl.ndication. 

In England, under the Normans, the Church and the 
Baronage were convoked, together with the estate of the Com- 
munity, a term which then probably described the inferior 
holders of land, whose tenure was not immediate of the Crown. 
This Third Estate was so numerous that convenience sug- 
gested its appearance by representation ; while the others, 
more limited, appeared, and still appear, personally. The 
Third Estate was reconstructed as circumstances developed 
themselves. It was a Reform of Parliament when the towns 
were summoned. 

In treating the House of the Third Estate as the House of 
the People, and not as the House of a privileged class, the 
Ministry and Parliament of 1831 virtually conceded the prin- 
ciple of Universal Suffrage. In this point of view the ten- 
pound franchise was an arbitrary, irrational, and impolitic 
qualification. It had, indeed, the merit of simplicity, and so 
had the constitutions of Abbe Sieyes. But its immediate and 
inevitable result was Chartism.^ 

Bad, however, as was the principle on which the 
Reform Bill was founded, it was not so much the Bill 
itself, Sidonia remarks, as the means by which it was 
carried, that shook the aristocracy. For this result the 
blame must rest with the Duke of Wellington. 

The future historian of the country will be perplexed to ascer- 
tain what was the distinct object which the Duke of Wellington 
proposed to himself in the political manoeuvres of May, 1832. 
It was known that the passing of the Reform Bill was a con- 
dition absolute with the King; it was unquestionable, that the 
first general election under the new law must ignominiously 
expel the Anti-Reform Ministry from power ; who would then 
resume their seats on the Opposition benches in both Houses 
with the loss not only of their boroughs, but of that reputa- 
tion for political consistency, which might have been some 
compensation for the parliamentary influence of which they 
had been deprived. It is difficult to recognise in this prema- 
ture effort of the Anti-Reform leader to thrust himself again 
into the conduct of public affairs, any indications of the 
prescient judgment which might have been expected from 
such a quarter. . . . Even temporary success could only 

1 Coningsby, Bk, I. ch. 7. 

1844-1845] THE REFORM BILL 285 

have been secured by the utmost decision, promptness, and 
energy. These were all wanting : some were afraid to follow 
the bold example of their leader ; many were disinclined. In 
eight-and-forty hours it was known there was a 'hitch.' 
The Reform party, who had been rather stupefied than 
appalled by the accepted mission of the Duke of Wellington, 
collected their scattered senses, and rallied their forces. The 
agitators harangued, the mobs hooted. The City of London, 
as if the King had again tried to seize the live members, 
appointed a permanent committee of the Common Council to 
watch the fortunes of the ' great national measure,' and to 
report daily. Brooks', which was the only place that at first 
was really frightened and talked of compromise, grew valiant 
again ; while young Whig heroes jum|jed upon club-room 
tables, and delivered fiery invectives. Emboldened by these 
demonstrations, the House of Commons met in great force, 
and passed a vote which struck, without disguise, at all rival 
powers in the State; virtually announced its supremacy; 
revealed the forlorn position of the House of Lords under the 
new arrangement ; and seemed to lay for ever the fluttering 
phantom of regal prerogative.^ 

When the Whigs had. triumphed, there was a general 
conviction that, ' by a great stroke of state similar in 
magnitude and effect to that which in the preceding 
century had changed the dynasty,' they had secured to 
themselves the government for at least a generation. 
Yet before the new Parliament had existed two years, 
the Reform Ministry was upset and the Parliament dis- 
solved. The fact is, ' the success of the Reform Ministrv, 
on their first appeal to the new constituency which they 
had created, had been fatally complete.' 

No government can be long secure without a formidable 
Opposition. It reduces their supporters to that tractable 
number which can be managed by the joint influences of 
fruition and of hope. It offers vengeance to the discontented, 
and distinction to the ambitious ; and employs the energies 
of aspiring spirits, who otherwise may prove traitors in a 
division or assassins in a debate. 

The general election of 1832 abrogated the Parliamentary 
Opposition of England, which had practically existed for 
more than a century and a half. And what a series of 

1 Coningsby, Bk. T, ch. 7. 

286 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

equivocal transactions and mortifying adventures did the with- 
drawal of this salutary restraint entail on the party which 
then so loudly congratulated themselves and the country that 
they were at length relieved from its odious repression ! In 
the hurry of existence one is apt too generally to pass over 
the political history of the times in which we ourselves live. 
The two years that followed the Reform of the House of 
Commons are full of instruction, on which a young man would 
do well to ponder. It is hardly possible that he could rise 
from the study of these annals without a confirmed disgust 
for political intrigue; a dazzling practice, apt at first to fas- 
cinate youth, for it appeals at once to our invention and our 
courage, but one which really should only be the resource of 
the second-rate. Great minds must trust to great truths and 
great talents for their rise, and nothing else.^ 

Disraeli, we may believe, was not oblivious of the 
opening which this grave admonition afforded to an 
enemy for pointed comments on his own career ; but he 
had not the sort of self-consciousness that shrinks from 
such a trial. Elsewhere he traces ' all that insubordina- 
tion, all those distempered ambitions, and all those dark 
intrigues' that finally broke up the Whig Government 
and the Whig party, to a deeper cause than the weakness 
of the Opposition, to 'the absence of individual influence 
and of the pervading authority of a commanding mind.' 
Lord Grey's supremacy was 'the supremacy of a tradi- 
tion rather than of a fact,' and by the time that he retired 
his intended successor (Stanley) was no longer in the 
Whig ranks. And yet Disraeli adds, seizing the oppor- 
tunity of making graceful reparation to Lord John 
Russell for the ruthless punishment inflicted on him by 
Runnymede, that the interval that elapsed between 1835 
and 1837 proved that from the first there had been 'in 
the Whig army one entirely competent to the office of 
leading a great party, though his capacity for that fulfil- 
ment was too tardily recognised.' 

Lord John Russell has that degree of imagination, which, 
though evinced rather in sentiment than expression, still 
enables him to generalise from the details of his reading and 

1 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 1. 

1844-1845] LOUD JOHN RUSSELL 287 

experience; and to take those comprehensive views, which, 
however easily deprecated by ordinary men in an age of 
routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the conjunctures 
in which we live. He understands, therefore, his position ; 
and he has the moral intrei)idity which prompts him ever to 
dare that which his intellect assures him is politic. He is 
consequently, at the same time, sagacious and bold in counsel. 
As an administrator he is prompt and indefatigable. He is 
not a natural orator and labours under physical deficiencies 
which even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely overcome. 
But he is experienced in debate, quick in reply, fertile in 
resource, takes large views, and frequently compensates for 
a dry and hesitating manner by the expression of those noble 
truths that flash across the fancy, and rise spontaneously to 
the lip, of men of poetic temperament when addressing 
popular assemblies. If we add to this, a private life of digni- 
fied repute, the accidents of his birth and rank, which never can 
be severed from the man, the scion of a great historic family, 
and born, as it were, to the hereditary service of the State, 
it is difficult to ascertain at what period, or under what cir- 
cumstances, the Whig party have ever possessed, or could 
obtain, a more efl&cient leader.-^ 

We now come to Peel and the organisation of the Con- 
servative party. On the very eve of their return to office 
in 1834, 'the Tory party, according to those perverted 
views of Toryism unhappily too long prevalent, was held 
to be literally defunct, except by a few old battered 
cronies of office, crouched round the embers of faction 
which they were fanning, and muttering " reaction " in 
mystic whispers.' 

It cannot be supposed indeed for a moment, that the dis- 
tinguished personage who had led that party in the House of 
Commons previously to the passing of the act of 1832, ever 
despaired in consequence of his own career. His then time 
of life, the perfection, almost the prime, of manhood ; his par- 
liamentary practice, doubly estimable in an inexperienced 
assembly; his political knowledge; his fair character and 
reputable position ; his talents and tone as a public speaker, 
which he had always aimed to adapt to the habits and culture 
of that middle class from which it was concluded the benches 
of the new Parliament were mainly to be recruited, — all these 
were qualities the possession of which must have assured a 

1 Coningsby, Bk. V. ch. 4. 

288 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

mind not apt to be disturbed in its calculations by any in- 
temperate heats, that with time and patience the game was 
yet for him.^ 

Peel had stood aloof from the Duke's impolitic ma- 
noeuvres of 1832. It would seem, indeed, that from an 
early period he had ' meditated his emancipation from 
the political confederacy in which he was implicated, 
and that he had been continually baffled in this project.' 

He broke loose from Lord Liverpool ; he retired from Mr. 
Canning. Forced again into becoming the subordinate leader 
of the weakest government in parliamentary annals, he be- 
lieved he had at length achieved his emancipation, when he 
declared to his late colleagues, after the overthrow of 1830, 
that he would never again accept a secondary position in 
office. But the Duke of Wellington was too old a tactician 
to lose so valuable an ally. So his Grace declared after the 
Reform Bill was passed, as its inevitable result, that thence- 
forth the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of 
Commons ; and this aphorism, cited as usual by the Duke's 
parasites as demonstration of his supreme sagacity, was a 
graceful mode of resigning the pre-eminence which had been 
productive of such great party disasters. It is remarkable 
that the party who devised and passed the Reform Bill, and 
who, in consequence, governed the nation for ten years, never 
once had their Prime Minister in the House of Commons : 
but that does not signify ; the Duke's maxim is still quoted, as 
an oracle almost equal in prescience to his famous query, 
'How is the King's government to be carried on?'^ 

One result of the Duke's tactics was that Peel, who had 
escaped so often, was caught at last in 1834 — the victim 
of ' short-sighted intriguers who persisted in looking upon 
a revolution as a mere party struggle, and would not 
permit the mind of the nation to work through the 
inevitable phases that awaited it.' 'Had Sir Robert Peel 
been in England in the autumn of 1834,' the Whig 
Government might probably never have been dismissed. 
The dismissal was a 'premature movement which neces- 
sarily led to the compact reorganisation of the Liberal 
party. Peel probably never believed in the success of his 

^ Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. I. ^ Ibid. 


administration, and ' its mere failure could occasion him 
little dissatisfaction; he was compensated for it by the 
noble opportunity afforded to him for the display of those 
great qualities, both moral and intellectual, which the 
swaddling clothes of a routine prosperity had long re- 
pressed.' But though his brief tenure of office 'elevated 
him in public opinion, and even in the eye of Europe,' 
the effect of the premature effort on his future position 
was far from being so satisfactory. If he had waited, he 
would have 'acceded to power as the representative of a 
creed, supported by earnest and enduring enthusiasm'; 
as it was, he came into office as the leader of a confederacy 
supported only by ' that churlish sufferance which was 
the result of a supposed balance of advantages in his 
favor.' He was forced before the time was ripe into 
attempting to form a great Conservative party on a 
comprehensive basis'; and that he did his work 'like a 
dexterous politician, who can deny?' But let us con- 
sider the performance with 'the impartiality of the 

The Tamworth Manifesto of 1834 was an attempt to con- 
struct a party without principles ; its basis therefore was 
necessarily Latitudinarianism ; and its inevitable consequence 
has been Political Infidelity. 

At an epoch of political perplexity and social alarm, the 
confederation was convenient, and was calculated by aggrega- 
tion to encourage the timid and confused. But when the 
perturbation was a little subsided, and men began to inquire 
why they were banded together, the difficulty of defining their 
purpose proved that the league, however respectable, was not 
a party. The leaders indeed might profit by their eminent 
position to obtain power for their individual gratification, 
but it was impossible to secure their followers that which, 
after all, must be the great recompense of a political party, the 
putting in practice of their opinions ; for they had none. . . , 

Conservatism was an attempt to carry on affairs by sub- 
stituting the fulfilment of the duties of office for the perform- 
ance of the functions of government ; and to maintain this 
negative system by the mere influence of property, reputable 
private conduct, and what are called good connexions. Con- 
servatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, dis- 

VOL. II — U 

290 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

avows Progress ; having rejected all respect for Antiquity, it 
offers no redress for the Present, and makes no preparation 
for the Future. It is obvious that for a time, under favourable 
circumstances, siich a confederation might succeed; but it is 
equally clear, that on the arrival of one of those critical con- 
junctures that will periodically occur in all states, and which 
such an unimpassioned system is even calculated ultimately 
to create, all power of resistance will be wanting : the barren 
curse of ])olitical infidelity will paralyse all action; and the 
Conservative Constitution will be discovered to be a Caput 

The old Tory party had possessed definite principles 
and a definite tradition. It was 

the party that resisted the ruinous mystification that metamor- 
phosed direct taxation by the Crown into indirect taxation by 
the Commons; that denounced the system which mortgaged 
industry to protect property ; the party that ruled Ireland by 
a scheme which reconciled both churches, and by a series of 
parliaments which counted among them lords and commons 
of both religions ; that has maintained at all times the terri- 
torial constitution of England as the only basis and security 
for local government, and which nevertheless once laid on the 
table of the House of Commons a commercial tariff negociated 
at Utrecht, which is the most rational that was ever devised 
by statesmen ; a party that has prevented the Church from 
being the salaried agent of the State, and has supported 
through many struggles the parochial polity of the country 
which secures to every labourer a home.^ 

But the Tory party had now ceased to exist, and its 
place had been taken by ' the great Conservative party,' 

that for ten years in an age of revolution had never promul- 
gated a principle ; whose only intelligible and consistent policy 
seemed to be an attempt, very grateful of course to the feelings 
of an English Royalist, to revive Irish Puritanism ; who when 
in power in 1835 had used that power only to evince their 
utter ignorance of Church principles ; and who were at this 
moment [1840] in open insurrection against the prerogatives 
of the English Monarchy ? ^ 

1 Coningsby, Bk. II. ch. 5. « Sybil, Bk. IV. ch. 14. 

3 Coningsby, Bk. VIII. ch. 3. 


The final result is that the Liberal revolution of 1832 
and the Conservative reconstruction of 1834 have given 
us two parties : one ' the destructive party ; a party with 
distinct and intelligible principles : they seek a specific 
for the evils of our social system in the general suffrage 
of the population ' ; the other the Conservative party, 
' who, without any embarrassing promulgation of prin- 
ciples, wish to keep things as they find them as long as 
they can.' 

Whenever public opinion, which this party never attempts 
to form, to educate, or to lead, falls into some violent per- 
plexity, passion, or caprice, this party yields without a struggle 
to the impulse, and, when the storm has passed, attempts to 
obstruct and obviate the logical and, ultimately, the inevitable 
results of the very measures they have themselves originated, 
or to which they have consented.^ 

With regard to the first school, it was hard to have any 
faith ' in the remedial qualities of a government carried 
on by a neglected democracy, who, for three centuries, 
had received no education ' ; yet if democracy were com- 
bated only by conservatism, democracy must triumph, 
and at no distant date. The men who entered public 
life at this epoch had to choose between Political Infidelity 
and a Destructive Creed. That was the dilemma to 
which we had been brought by nearly two centuries 
of Parliamentary rule. 

But Parliamentary rule would prove no more enduring 
than other forms of government. 

'You will observe one curious trait,' said Sidonia to 
Coningsby, ' in the history of this country : the depository of 
power is always unpopular; all combine against it; it always 
falls. Power was deposited in the great Barons ; the Church, 
using the King for its instrument, crushed the great Barons. 
Power was deposited in the Church ; the King, bribing the 
Parliament, plundered the Church. Power was deposited in 
the King; the Parliament, using the People, beheaded the 
King, expelled the King, changed the King, and, finally, for 
a King substituted an administrative officer. For one hundred 

1 Ibid., Bk. VII. ch. 2. 

292 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

and fifty years Power has been deposited in the Parliament, 
and for the last sixty or seventy years it has been becoming 
more and more unpopular. In I80O it was endeavoured by a 
reconstruction to regain the popular affection ; but, in truth, 
as the Parliament then only made itself more powerful, it has 
only become more odious. As we see that the Barons, the 
Church, the King, have in turn devoured each other, and that 
the Parliament, the last devourer, remains, it is impossible to 
resist the impression that this body also is doomed to be 
destroyed; and he is a sagacious statesman who may detect 
in what form and in what quarter the great consumer will 
arise.' ^ 

Elsewhere we are given a clue to Disraeli's own theory 
of the identity of 'the great consumer.' 'If the peers 
have ceased to be raagnificoes,' he remarks in his account 
of the overthrow of the House of Lords in 1832, 'may it 
not also happen that the Sovereign may cease to be a 
Doge ? It is not impossible that the political move- 
ments of our time, which seem on the surface to have a 
tendency to democracy, may have in reality a monarchical 
bias.' 2 Sidonia himself, in a later conversation with 
Coningsby, is more confident and explicit : 

The tendency of advanced civilisation is in truth to pure 
Monarchy. Monarchy is indeed a government which requires 
a high degree of civilisation for its full development. It needs 
the support of free laws and manners, and of a widely-diffused 
intelligence. Political compromises are not to be tolerated 
except at periods of rude transition. An educated nation 
recoils from the imperfect vicariate of what is called a repre- 
sentative government. Your House of Commons, that has 
absorbed all other powers in the State, will in all probability 
fall more rapidly than it rose. Public opinion has a more 
direct, a more comprehensive, a more efficient organ for its 
utterance, than a body of men sectionally chosen. The 
Printing-press is a political element unknown to classic or 
feudal times. It absorbs in a great degree the duties of the 
Sovereign, the Priest, the Parliament ; it controls, it educates, 
it discusses. That public opinion, when it acts, would appear 
in the form of one who has no class interests. In an enlight- 
ened age the Monarch on the throne, free from the vulgar 
prejudices and the corrupt interests of the subject, becomes 
again divine ! ^ 


1 Coninqshy, Bk. IV. ch. 13. 2 /j^-^^.^ Bk. I. ch. 7. 

3 Ibid., Bk. V. ch. 8. 

1844-18i5] TENDENCY OF THE AGE 293 

In a conversation with Oswald Millbank, Coningsby 
develops Sidonia's ideas : 

'The only way [said Coningsby] to terminate what, in the 
language of the present day, is called Class Legislation, is not 
to entrust power to classes. You would find a locofoco 
majority as much addicted to Class Legislation as a factitious 
aristocracy. The only power that has no class sympathy is 
the Sovereign.' 

' But suppose the ease of an arbitrary Sovereign, what would 
be your check against him ? ' 

' The same as against an arbitrary Parliament.' 

* But a Parliament is responsible.' 
'To whom?' 

* To their constituent body.' 

' Suppose it was to vote itself perpetual ? ' 

'But public opinion would prevent that?' 

'And is public opinion of less influence on an individual 
than on a body ? ' 

' But public opinion may be indifferent. A nation may be 
misled, may be corrupt.' 

' If the nation that elects the Parliament be corrupt, the 
elected body will resemble it. The nation that is corrupt 
deserves to fall. . . .' 

'Do you then declare against Parliamentary government?' 

* Far from it : I look upon political change as the greatest 
of evils, for it comprehends all. But if we have no faith in the 
permanence of the existing settlement, ... I would accustom 
the public mind to the contemplation of an existing though 
torpid power in the constitution, capable of removing our 
social grievances, were we to transfer to it those prerogatives 
which the Parliament has gradually usurped, and used in a 
manner which has produced the present material and moral 
disorganisation. The House of Commons is the house of a 
few ; the Sovereign is the sovereign of all. The proper leader 
of the people is the individual who sits upon the throne.' 

' Then you abjure the Representative principle ? ' 
' Why so ? Representation is not necessarily, or even in a 
principal sense. Parliamentary. . . . Opinion is now supreme, 
and Opinion speaks in print. The representation of the Press 
is far more complete than the representation of Parliament. 
Parliamentary representation was the happy device of a ruder 
age, to which it was admirably adapted : an age of semi- 
civilisation, when there was a leading class in the community ; 
but it exhibits many symptoms of desuetude. It is controlled 
by a system of representation more vigorous and comprehen- 
sive ; which absorbs its duties and fulfils them more efficiently. 

294 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

and in which discussion is pursued on fairer terms, and often 
with more depth and iui'ormatiou.' ^ 

Here, then, we have the suggestion of a new political 
ideal : 

Let us propose to our consideration the idea of a free 
monarchy, established on fundamental laws, itself the apex of 
a vast pile of municipal and local government, ruling an 
educated people, represented by a free and intellectual press. 
Before such a royal authority, supported by such a national 
opinion, the sectional anomalies of our country would disap- 
pear. Under such a system, where qualification would not be 
parliamentary, but personal, even statesmen would be edu- 
cated; we should have no more diplomatists who could not 
speak French, no more bishops ignorant of theology, no more 
generals-in-chief who never saw a field.^ 

There we have ' a polity adapted to our laws, our insti- 
tutions, our feelings, our manners, our traditions ; a 
polity capable of great ends and appealing to high senti- 
ments ; a polity which would render government an 
object of national affection.' There, also, we have the 
material of a programme and a creed for a rejuvenated 
Tory party. 

In a parliamentary sense, that great party has ceased to exist; 
but I will believe that it still lives in the thought and sentiment 
and consecrated memory of the English nation. It has its origin 
in great principles and in noble instincts ; it sympathises with 
the lowly, it looks up to the Most High ; it can count its heroes 
and its martyrs ; they have met in its behalf plunder, proscrip- 
tion, and death. Nor, when it finally yielded to the iron progress 
of oligarchical supremacy, was its catastrophe inglorious. Its 
genius was vindicated in golden sentences and with fervid 
arguments of impassioned logic by St. John ; and breathed in 
the intrepid eloquence and patriot soul of William Wyndham. 
Even now it is not dead, but sleepeth; and, in an age of 
political materialism, of confused purposes and perplexed in- 
telligence, that aspires only to wealtli because it has faith in 
no other accomplishment, as men rifle cargoes on the verge of 
shipwreck, toryism will yet rise from the tomb over which 
Bolingbroke shed his last tear, to bring back strength to the 
Crown, liberty to the Subject, and to announce that power has 
only one duty : to secure the social welfare of the People.^ 

1 Coningshy, Bk. VII. ch. 2. » j7,j(i, 

8 Syhil, Bk. IV. ch. 14. 

1844-1845] A FREE MONARCHY 295 

We began with a passage from the last chapter of Sybil ; 
let us end with another which immediately follows it, and 
brings the novel to a conclusion ; 

It is nearly fourteen years ago, in the popular frenzy of a 
mean and selfish revolution which emancipated neither the 
Crown nor the People, that I first took the occasion to intimate, 
and then to develope, to the first assembly of my countrymen 
that I ever had the honor to address, these convictions. 
They have been misunderstood, as is ever for a season the fate 
of Truth, and they have obtained for their promulgator much 
misrepresentation, as must ever be the lot of those who will 
not follow the beaten track of a fallacious custom. But Time, 
that brings all things, has brought also to the mind of England 
some suspicion that the idols they have so long worshipped, 
and the oracles that have so long deluded them, are not the 
true ones. There is a whisper rising in this country that 
Loyalty is not a phrase. Faith not a delusion, and Popular 
Liberty something more diffusive and substantial than the 
profane exercise of the sacred rights of sovereignty by political 

That we may live to see England once more possess a free 
Monarchy, and a privileged and prosperous People, is my 
prayer ; that these great consequences can only be brought 
about by the energy and devotion of our Youth is m}'' per- 
suasion. We live in an age when to be young and to be in- 
different can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare 
for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented 
by suffering millions ; and the Youth of a Nation are the 
trustees of Posterity.^ 

To disengage this theory of English history and English 
politics, and present it in consecutive form, is at once in 
some degree to criticise and appraise it. That the his- 
tory contains an element of paradox is obvious enough ; 
that it also contains a large measure of truth, originality, 
and insight, few competent historians would now care 
to deny. We are beginning to be emancipated from the 
tyranny of the Whig writers, and Disraeli startles us less 
than he startled the generation for which his views 
were first promulgated. One of his objects, indeed, was 
doubtless to produce a travesty of the rival Whig theory 

1 Sybil, Bk. VI. ch. 13. 

296 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

that held the field, to show that it was perfectly possible 
to formulate another no less plausible and coherent, in 
appearance just as water-tight and floating just as securely. 
We have always iu Disraeli's case to guard against the 
temptation of taking him too literally. An element of 
subtle irony is usually in his mind even — indeed, espe- 
cially — when he is most grave and solemn. He likes to 
be oracular and to ignore the other side ; but he is all the 
time, we may be certain, perfectly conscious of its exist- 
ence. Toryism may not be the spirit of light, but it was 
something to show that it was just as easy so to present 
it as jNlacaulay found it easy so to present Whiggery ; and 
for a generation which was inclined to be excessively self- 
complacent, and which was peculiarly in mental bondage 
to existing political fact, it was a salutary discipline to 
be reminded that the whole history of England might 
have been different and yet have ended happily, and that 
we might have been conducted by another and easier 
route to a similar, or possibly even to a better, end. 

Disraeli had the speculative, a priori mind which finds 
pleasure in the exercise of fitting facts to theories ; but 
in the region of politics and history this type of mind, 
as long as it is active, flexible, and receptive, is, if not 
more likely to arrive at truth, more likely to be illumi- 
nating than the other laborious type, often overpraised, 
which clings timidly to detail, and shrinks from indepen- 
dent and imaginative flight. That the facts in Disraeli's 
history are sometimes wrested to fit the theory there is 
no need to deny. The process is especially visible in 
his reconstruction of the historv of the seventeenth 
century. His version of the quarrel between Charles I. 
and the Parliament is too fanciful to be quite serious, 
and we may believe that he was here consciously paying 
tribute to the historical caprices of Manners and Smythe. 
When we come to the eighteenth century, the elements 
of caprice in his picture of Bolingbroke, and in the exalta- 
tion of Shelburne as Pitt's tutelary genius, are more 
peculiarly his own. Between Shelburne and Disraeli 

1844-1845] THE NOTE OF IRONY 297 

there is a certain affinity of character which perhaps 
helps to explain Disraeli's admiration. The words 
applied to Shelburne — 'Deep and adroit, he was, how- 
ever, brave and firm' — probably made the reader think 
of Disraeli himself, and the resemblance goes fartlier. 
Shelburne, like Disraeli, was far in advance of his time, 
and to us who know the issue appears to have been nearly 
always right in the controversies of that age ; yet he in- 
spired among his contemporaries dislike and distrust to 
a degree which we find it most difficult to explain. He 
seems not only, like Disraeli, to have been deficient in 
the faculty of winning the confidence of his fellows, but 
also, like Disraeli, to have had the unfortunate art of 
making himself distrusted more even than was justified 
by anything we can discern in his motives and conduct. 
At a point, indeed, the resemblance ceases. Shelburne's 
want of tact and skill in handling men made his career a 
comparative failure ; Disraeli had even greater disadvan- 
tages to contend with, but overcame them all. 

As we draw nearer to his own times, Disraeli's history 
gains in seriousness and value. His estimate of the 
younger Pitt shows real discernment and insight ; though 
in an account of the two periods of Pitt's career which 
he gave in later life in a letter ^ to Sir William Harcourt 
the note of banter and exaggeration seems to become 
audible : 

I do not at all agree with you in your estimate of Pitt's 
career. It is the first half of it which I select as his title-deed 
to be looked upon as a Tory Minister — hostility to borough- 
mongering, economy, French alliance, and commercial treaties, 
borrowed from the admirable negotiations of Utrecht; the later 
half is pure Whiggism; close Parliaments, war with France, 
national debt and commercial treaties, all prompted and 
inspired by the arch- Whig trumpeter, Mr. Burke. 

When we come to Pitt's successors, and especially to 
the period between the conclusion of the war and the 
passage of the Reform Act, Disraeli is illuminating and 

1 1873. Quoted in Lord Rosebery's Pitt, p. 278. 

298 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

suggestive, and most helpful to an understanding of sub- 
sequent English politics. He does not spare the Tory 
party of that generation, and he makes us realise how 
easily, with more breadth and statesmanship, they might 
have guided national progress on safe and conserva- 
tive lines, and avoided the catastrophic developments 
which their blunders made inevitable ; yet he effectively 
dispels the traditional Liberal prejudice, not yet extinct, 
that all before the Reform Act is a period of Cimmerian 
darkness, and all that follows light. After 1832 the 
hegemony of Peel begins, and we are in the disputable 
region of modern party politics. Disraeli's view of Peel 
is possibly nearer to that which posterity will adopt than 
to any that would gain general acceptance even in the 
present generation. Peel has been fortunate in the treat- 
ment he has received from both political parties. Nomi- 
nally a great Conservative statesman, he has escaped 
severe criticism from the quarter whence criticism was 
most natural and necessary : really one of the chief 
apostles of modern Liberalism, he has been regarded, of 
course, by Liberals with sympathetic eyes. Peel, to 
adopt the language of Disraeli's later life,^ found two 
parties — one 'exclusive and odious,' the other 'liberal 
and cosmopolitan,' neither of them national. When 
the power of the exclusive party had been shattered, it 
became his business to reconstruct it, and to make it once 
more a truly national organ of government ; and for a 
time his labours seemed to be attended with great success. 
But he was labouring in the spirit of tlie mere opportunist 
who was guided by momentary expediency, and who 
had laid firm hold of no great principle as the distinctive 
possession of the party he was building up ; and he ended, 
after espousing the principles of the enemy, by abandoning 
his task and deserting to the other side. 

It is time to come to Disraeli's own conception of 
Toryism and of the Tory ideal. For him in the political 
cosmos there are two great realities — the Throne at the 

1 1870. In the General Preface to the Novels. 

1844-1845] THRONE AND PEOPLE 299 

centre, and the People at the circumference ; and on the 
maintenance of their normal and unimpeded interaction 
the health and balance of all depends. ' The privileges 
of the multitude and the prerogatives of the Sovereign 
had grown up together, and together they had waned ; ' 
together also they were to be redeemed from the selfish 
oligarchy which had usurped them, and the not less selfish 
and only less narrow middle class which had now taken 
the place of the oligarchy. That, briefly stated, is the 
Disraelian position. There is no shrinking, as we can 
see, from democracy as such, though there is a shrinking 
from a sudden transference of power to a neglected and 
entirely uneducated democracy. There is, however, a 
clear perception of the rapid and almost inevitable drift 
towards democracy which had already begun, and to 
which Disraeli himself was to give so great an impetus. 
Since he wrote Coningshy and Sybil, the whole story of 
English politics has been the story of the gradual awaken- 
ing of the multitude below, and of confused attempts to 
secure attention to their interests and recognition of their 
privileges. In that his prevision was right, as was also in one 
sense his prevision that by a parallel process there would 
come to the monarchy a revival of its prestige. Nothing is 
more marked than the steady growth of its popularity 
and indirect influence since the advent of democracy. 
Disraeli himself did much, when he acceded to power, to 
foster this growth ; but if he had ever cherished the 
hope of a formal restoration of direct personal prerogative 
in the government of the kingdom and the empire, he 
made no serious attempt to give it fulfilment. He was a 
dreamer of dreams, but he had also the peculiarly hard 
grasp of fact to which only the imaginative dreamer can 
attain, and he saw the impossibility of any movement in 
that direction. Indeed, on Sidonia's principle that the 
depository of power in England is always unpopular, 
such a movement was not desirable, even in the best 
interests of the monarchy itself. 

But if we substitute for the Sovereign the governing 

300 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

executive which acts in his name and exercises his func- 
tions, then the forecast of political developments given 
in Ooningshy has been verified to the letter. Parliament, 
as foreshadowed, has rapidly declined, and ' the great 
consumer,' if not the Crown, is its reflection, the Cabinet, 
to which Parliament transferred the power it had 
wrested from the Crown. In a sense, indeed, the Cabinet 
is the creature of the House of Commons, which can at 
any moment overthrow it ; but only at the suicidal cost of 
putting an end to its own existence, and the Cabinet, 
while it is in being, has an independent life, and is more 
and more monopolising not only the executive power, 
but control of legislation and of the House of Commons 
itself. The House, in fact, is being crushed between the 
upper and nether millstones of the executive and the 
people. Coningsby's ideal of a Crown emancipated from 
serfdom to Parliament, placed at the apex of a vast 
pyramid of municipal and local institutions, and dispensing 
government to a people represented by a free press, seems 
in a certain perverted sense on the way to being realised ; 
but as it approaches realization it ceases to be an ideal. 
The supreme Government, instead of being a thing above 
party, is the very incarnation of the spirit of party ; and 
so far from having reached a haven of rest, we are obvi- 
ously in rapid movement to some new goal which is not 

Disraeli's great merit as a political thinker is his ability 
to penetrate through names and appearances to the 
realities beneath, with the power he thereby gains of 
emancipating us from formula. Sometimes, indeed, he 
becomes, before he has finished, the slave of formula him- 
self ; and, like Matthew Arnold, he can repeat a phrase 
till he is persuaded that it is more than words, and has 
acquired some sovereign virtue of its own. There is a 
certain amount of mere formula in the politics of Young 
England, in its vague and shadowy programmes, and 
even in the statements of its aspirations and ideals. But 
the programmes and ideals of one generation are apt to 


be consigned to the lumber-room of the next; and in 
Disraeli's exposition of the Tory idea it is not the letter, - 
but the spirit, that is permanently valuable. From] him 
the ethics of Toryism receives its best and deepest ex- 
pression. 'The feudal system may have worn out, but 
its main principle — that the tenure of property should be 
the fulfilment of duty — is the essence of good govern- 
ment. The divine right of kings may have been a plea 
for feeble tyrants, but the divine right of government is 
the keystone of human progress, and without it govern- 
ments sink into police, and a nation is degraded into a 
mob.'^ In a passage such as that, which contains the 
kernel of Disraeli's teaching, we feel the sentiment that 
gives to Toryism its power over the imagination ; and 
for lack of which Liberalism, in spite of its self-confi- 
dent and triumphant advance, remains in comparison 
mechanical and uninspiring, invested in mediocrity, 
stamped with the seal of the commonplace, and pro- 
foundly unsatisfying to the deeper spirits of every age. 

The following letter shows that Disraeli was at some 
pains to verify his theory of a chain of personal influence 
connecting Bolingbroke, Shelburne, and Pitt, 'the three 
greatest of English statesmen.' 

From Lord Lansdowne.^ 


Jan. 29, [1845]. 
My dear Sir, 

I can have no hesitation in answering, as far as it is in 
my power, your enquiries relating to my father, and with the 
greater pleasure as I am already sensible of the justice you 
have already done to his views on public questions, and the 
favourable spirit in which you have referred to them. 

My father did not marry Lord Granville's^ daughter till 
after Lord Granville's death, and, though he had seen him, 
was too young to have lived in any habits of intercourse with 
him. He of course knew and heard a great deal about him, 

1 General Preface to the Novels, 1870. 

2 The 3rd Marquis, 1780-1863. His father, Disraeli's Lord Shelburne, 
was the first. 

8 Carteret 




302 THE TORY IDEA [chap, x 

and considered him to have been acknowledged the person of 
his day of greatest talent for debate in the House of Lords, 
Lord Bolingbroke being incapacitated from sitting. 

Then as to Mr. Pitt, my father, having been much connected 
with Lord Chatham during the last years of his life, knew him 
from his boyhood ; and I am sure he was a visitor at this place 
both before and after he came into Parliament, though long 
before my recollection. 

You do not mention the precise object of the work in which, 
whatever it may be, I am glad to hear you are engaged ; but 
[if] there are any other points respecting which I could give 
you information, I shall feel happy to do so when I settle in 
town next month, where I could refer to my father's papers. . . . 

I remain, dear sir. 

Your very faithful servant, 



Disraeli and Peel 


Coningshy and Sybil had sprung from Young England, 
and were, indeed, its most notable outcome; but by the 
time Sybil appeared Young England was no more, and 
Disraeli was winning a fame in comparison with which 
the greatest literary success is feeble in its resonance. 
The significance of Young England in the story of his 
political career has sometimes been overrated. It had 
supplied him with a motive for the systematic formu- 
lation of his political ideas, and led to the development 
of those ideas in a monarchical direction ; and it had 
given him for the time something of the position of a 
leader, and for his life some cherished friends. But 
there was a good deal in the movement which he had 
taken over mechanically from his younger associates, and 
in which he never had his heart, and he did not let it 
deflect him even for the moment from the path of his 
ambition. Young England was, in fact, little more than 
a beautiful dream, and no dream could long detain a 
man like Disraeli from the world of reality. 

In the session of 1844 he had won the ear of the House 
of Commons, but he had not yet succeeded in winning 
its confidence. His bad reputation clung to him per- 
sistently and impeded his progress. It clung to him all 
the more because, in subtle combination with high and 
serious qualities, the element of wayward fantasy in his 
character was still there, ever tending to renew the sus- 


304 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

picions which it had helped to engender at the first. 
With all his self-complacency, he had too much sagacity 
to be under any illusion as to the real situation. He had 
now reached the age of forty, and the years as they had 
gone by had brought him success of a kind, but not the 
success he sought. He had compelled the House of 
Commons to listen to him, to laugh with him, and even to 
cheer him ; but it cared nothing for his ideas, and he was 
making no visible progress to the attainment of the 
power for which his ambition craved. The Ministers 
had driven him into opposition, and from them he had 
no longer anything to hope. His dream of a recon- 
structed Toryism was clearly past realisation, for Peel 
was now marching straight towards Manchester. The 
reputation of a brilliant speaker and the homage of a 
picturesque coterie were not enough to satisfy a man of 
his temper, yet of any higher reward there appeared to 
be little prospect. 

But he had one supreme quality which neither Ministers 
nor the House of Commons, while noting his more obvious 
endowments and limitations, had yet learnt to appraise — 
the power of patient, unflagging, yet intense resolve. 
Everything comes at last, he wrote in Sybils if men are 
firm and calm, and will such as his was certain in the 
end to carve a way to success. Will in his case was 
reinforced by a rare insight in discerning opportunity, 
and by a rare courage in seizing opportunity when it 
came. Thirty years later, in conversation with Lord 
Rowton, he cited in application to the present emergency 
the maxim of Cardinal de Retz: ' II n'y a rien dans le 
monde qui n'ait son moment decisif ; et le chef d'oeuvre 
de la bonne conduite est de connaitre et de prendre ce 
moment.' Few could have seen that at the beginning 
of 1845 the decisive moment had come. The Govern- 
ment, which had been tottering in 1843, had survived 
all its troubles, and was now to all appearance stronger 
than ever. The country was again prosperous. Peel's 
reform of the tariff in 1842 had done something to revive 


trade, the development of railways had done a great 
deal more, and a series of good harvests had done most 
of all. Disraeli told Lord Campbell, who came up to him 
in the lobby at the beginning of the session to ask his 
opinion of affairs, that he thought they were in the third 
year of the Walpole administration ; and he said the 
same thing in a speech in the House itself a few weeks 
later. One seems, indeed, to feel something of his usual 
subtle irony lurking in the phrase ; but he confided to 
his sister, in the letter in which he reported the con- 
versation with Lord Campbell, that he did not see many 
signs of trouble before Peel. He at once, however, 
added the cautious reflection that the storms in Parlia- 
ment, like squalls in the Mediterranean, rose in a moment. 

Probably, indeed, with his strange gift of prescience, 
he saw clearly enough that the current on which the 
Government were floating must bear them to disaster. 
' I have observed,' he had said in Contarini Fleming, 
' that, after writing a book, my mind always makes a 
great spring; ' and as he wrote Coningshy and Sybil his 
eyes had been opened to the realities of the situation. 
We have seen in Sybil, as compared with Coningsby, an 
increased distrust of Peel and an increased estrangement 
from his policy ; and Disraeli no doubt realised that, 
with all its apparent strength, the Peel Ministry was a 
house built upon the sand. At all events, while it stood 
his path was barred, and he now determined to advance 
to the assault upon it alone, to strike openly and persist- 
ently, and extort by sheer aggression from a reluctant 
House of Commons the recognition which it had denied 
to his more persuasive methods ; and having determined 
to strike, he characteristically chose to strike at the 
highest, at the First Minister himself. 

After all that has preceded, it is hardly necessary to 
enlarge on the character and achievements of the states- 
man whom Disraeli now singled out for attack. When 
an appreciation of Sir Robert Peel at once judicial and 
discerning is sought by historians, it is to the man who 


306 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

overthrew him that they most frequently turn. In the 
year after Peel's death Disraeli wrote what follows : 

Nature had combined in Sir Robert Peel many admirable 
parts. In him a physical frame incapable of fatigue was 
united with an understanding equally vigorous and flexible. 
He was gifted with the faculty of method in the highest 
degree ; and with great powers of application which were 
sustained by a prodigious memory ; while he could com- 
municate his acquisitions with clear and fluent elocution. . . . 

Thus gifted and thus accomplished, Sir Robert Peel had 
a great deficiency ; he was without imagination. Wanting 
imagination, he wanted prescience. No one was more 
sagacious when dealing with the circumstances before him ; 
no one penetrated the present with more acuteness and 
accuracy. His judgment was faultless provided he had not 
to deal with the future. Thus it happened through his long 
career, that while he always was looked upon as the most 
prudent and safest of leaders, he ever, after a protracted dis- 
play of admirable tactics, concluded his campaigns by sur- 
rendering at discretion. He was so adroit that he could 
prolong resistance even beyond its term, but so little fore- 
seeing that often in the very triumph of his manoeuvres he 
found himself in an untenable position. And so it came to 
pass that Roman Catholic emancipation. Parliamentary reform, 
and the abrogation of our commercial system, were all carried 
in haste or in passion and without conditions or mitigatory 

Sir Robert Peel had a peculiarity which is perhaps natural 
with men of very great talents who have not the creative 
faculty ; he had a dangerous sympathy with the creations of 
others. Instead of being cold and wary, as was commonly 
supposed, he was impulsive, and even inclined to rashness. 
When he was ambiguous, unsatisfactory, reserved, tortuous, 
it was that he was perplexed, that he did not see his way, 
that the routine which he had admirably administered failed 
him, and that his own mind was not constructed to create 
a substitute for the custom which was crumbling away. 
Then he was ever on the lookout for new ideas, and when 
he embraced them he did so with eagerness, and often with 
precipitancy. . . . Although apparently wrapped up in himself 
and supposed to be egotistical, except in seasons of rare 
exaltedness, as in the years 1844-5, when he reeled under the 
favour of the Court, the homage of the Continent, and the 
servility of Parliament, he was really deficient in self-con- 
fidence. There was always some person representing some 
theory or system exercising an influence over his mind. In 


his ' sallet-days ' it was Mr. Horner or Sir Samuel Romilly ; 
in later and more important periods it was the Duke of 
Wellington, the King of the French, Mr. Jones Lloyd — some 
others — and finally Mr. Cobden. . . . 

The Roman Catholic Association, the Birmingham Union, 
the Manchester League, were all the legitimate offspring of 
Sir Robert Peel. No Minister ever diminished the power of 
government in this country so much as this eminent man. 
No one ever strained the constitution so much. He was the 
unconscious parent of political agitation. He literally forced 
the people out of doors to become statesmen, and the whole 
tendency of his policy was to render our institutions mere 
forms. In a word, no one with all his conservative language 
more advanced revolution. In an ordinary period he would 
have been a perfect Minister, but he was not a Minister for 
stormy times : he wanted depth, and passion, and resource 
for such an occasion. 

Sir Robert Peel had a bad manner of which he was sensible ; 
he was by nature very shy, but forced early in life into 
eminent positions, he had formed an artificial manner, 
haughtily stiff or exuberantly bland, of which, generally 
speaking, he could not divest himself. . . . Generally speaking 
he was never at his ease, and never very content except in 
the House of Commons. Even there he was not natural, 
though there the deficiency was compensated for by his unri- 
valled facility, which passed current with the vulgar eye for the 
precious quality for which it was substituted. He had obtained 
a complete control over his temper, Avhich was by nature 
somewhat fiery. His disposition was good; there was nothing 
petty about him ; he was very free from rancour ; he was 
not only not vindictive, but partly by temperament, and still 
more perhaps by discipline, he was even magnanimous. 
Por so very clever a man he was deficient in the knowledge 
of human nature. The prosperous routine of his youth was 
not favourable to the development of this faculty. It was 
never his lot to struggle; although forty years in Parliament, 
it is remarkable that Sir Robert Peel never represented a 
popular constituency or stood a contested election. As he 
advanced in life he was always absorbed in thought, and 
abstraction is not friendly to a perception of character, or to 
a fine appreciation of the circumstances of the hour. . . . 

As an orator Sir Robert Peel had perhaps the most avail- 
able talent that has ever been brought to bear in the House 
of C' mmons. . . . His statements were perspicuous, complete, 
and lignified ; when he combated the objections or criticised 
the propositions of an opponent, he was adroit and acute; 
no speaker ever sustained a process of argumentation m a 

308 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

public assembly more lucidly, and none as debaters have united 
in so conspicuous a degree prudence with promptness. In 
the higher efforts of oratory he was not successful. His 
vocabulary was ample and never mean ; but it was neither 
rich nor rare. His speeches will afford no sentiment of sur- 
passing grandeur or beauty that will linger in the ears of 
coming generations. He embalmed no great political truth 
in immortal words. His flights were ponderous ; he soared 
with the wing of the vulture rather than the plume of the 
eagle ; and his perorations, when most elaborate, were most 
unwieldy. In pathos he was quite deficient; when he 
attempted to touch the tender passions, it was painful. His 
face became distorted, like that of a woman who wants to 
cry but cannot succeed. Orators certainly should not shed 
tears, but there are moments when, as the Italians say, the 
voice should weep. The taste of Sir Robert Peel was highly 
cultivated, but it was not originally line ; he had no wit ; 
but he had a keen sense of the ridiculous and an abundant 
vein of genuine humour. Notwithstanding his artificial 
reserve, he had a hearty and a merry laugh ; and sometimes 
his mirth was uncontrollable. He was gifted with an admi- 
rable organ ; perhaps the finest that has been heard in the 
House in our days, unless we except the thrilling tones of 
O'Connell. Sir Robert Feel also modulated his voice with 
great skill. His enunciation was very clear, though some- 
what marred by provincialisms. His great deficiency was 
want of nature, which made him often appear even with a 
good cause more plausible than persuasive and more specious 
than convincing. . . . 

One cannot say of Sir Robert Peel, notwithstanding his 
unrivalled powers of despatching affairs, that he was the 
greatest Minister that this country ever produced, because, 
twice placed at the helm, and on the second occasion with 
the Court and the Parliament equally devoted to him, he 
never could maintain himself in power. Nor, notwith- 
standing his consummate Parliamentary tactics, can he be 
described as the greatest party leader that ever flo^^rished 
among us, for he contrived to destroy the most compact, 
powerful, and devoted party that ever followed a British 
statesman. Certainly, notwithstanding his great sway in 
debate, we cannot recognise him as our greatest orator, 
for in many of the supreme requisites of oratory he was 
singularly deficient. But what he really was, and what 
posterity will acknowledge him to have been, is the greatest 
Member of Parliament that ever lived.^ 

^ Lord George Beiitinck, ch. 17. 


In a stray fragment in Disraeli's hand written in the 
early forties, one finds grouped together under the 
legend 'Similarity of characters in different ages and 
countries,' and without other comment, the names 
Augustus, Pompeius, Peel. The underlying thought may 
not improbably have been that here were three men all 
in a sense mediocre, and with little of the eagle quality 
of the great men of action, yet all in the course of events 
constrained to play lofty parts. Augustus, heir to the 
achievements and political ideas of a man of supreme 
genius, established the most famous monarchy that the 
world has ever seen ; while, coming into collision with 
the same man of genius, Pompey was a tragic failure. 
Peel's career, of course, is at a far lower pitch of dramatic 
intensity than that of either of the Romans, and the 
time has hardly come for any attempt at a final estimate 
of its value and significance. Though nearly two genera- 
tions have elapsed since his death, his reputation is still 
involved in current political controversy, and he still 
suffers from the excessive praise, and in a less degree 
from the excessive blame, that fall to statesmen while 
they live. Perhaps he is best regarded as the typical 
statesman of a middle-class era, with all the excellences 
and limitations appropriate to the part. A dominant 
middle class having none of the proud confidence in its 
own character and ideals that gives to an aristocracy 
strength and persistence, and not resting like a democracy 
on the broad basis that endures, is always in a condition 
of unstable equilibrium, and is never able long to maintain 
itself in power. Without genius, without ideas, and 
without imagination, but with a strong business instinct 
and great practical talents, it aims rather at the estab- 
lishment of honest and efficient administration than at 
achievements of creative statesmanship. And so it was 
with Peel. He was never sure of himself, and was always 
in a state of uneasy transition or of violent revolt against 
his own past. Mainly interested in finance and in 
practical measures of administration, he cared little for 

310 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

the imperial ideas of generations that had preceded and 
were to follow his own. But, as Mr. Gladstone once 
remarked, he was the best man of business who was ever 
Prime Minister ; and he was that not only by virtue of 
what Disraeli calls his 'unrivalled powers of despatching 
affairs,' but also by his possession of many of the 
higher moral qualities of the ideal man of business. 
There was, indeed, a good deal more of egoism and 
ambition in his character than has often been recognised, 
but he was incapable of any petty or ignoble self-seeking; 
and in point of industry, rectitude, and devotion to 
public duty, he set an example whicli has served per- 
manently to raise the standard of English government. 
That is a better title to fame than the dubious distinction, 
which Disraeli assigned him, of having been the greatest 
Member of Parliament that ever lived. 

His weakness as a statesman lay in his failure to under- 
stand the significance of a great historic party as an organ 
of government not easily to be created, not lightly to 
be destroyed. In his eager pursuit of mere measures he 
forgot what was more essential than even the greatest 
measure. He shattered the Conservative party, and not 
wholly, it would seem, in a spirit of inattention, but acting 
in some degree on a theory, which he appears to have 
borrowed from the Court, that party was an evil, and 
that he could govern better without it. His theory broke 
down, and he left parties in the state of confusion in 
which they long remained, and to which, among other 
evils, that most needless of our foreign adventures, the 
Crimean War, may not unreasonably be traced. It was 
to this neglect and disparagement of party connexion 
that, as we shall see, Disraeli steadily directed his assault 
in the struggle that now began. 

Peel by his tactless arrogance had seemed to invite a 
declaration of war, and war, if he sought it, he was now 
to have with a vengeance. The campaign began with a 
skirmish in the first weeks of the session of 1845. In 
the course of the previous year the public had been much 


excited over the famous affair of the opening of Mazzini's 
letters in the post under a Home Office warrant. On 
Graham, as Home Secretary, most of the obloquy de- 
scended, but as a matter of fact he was only technically 
responsible, having acted at the instance of the Foreign 
Secretary, Aberdeen ; and though the particular occasion 
chosen for the exercise of an invidious but necessary 
power was singularly unfortunate,^ neither of the Minis- 
ters had in theory exceeded his rights. 

Secret committees of the Lords and Commons had 
investigated the matter, and reported in a sense favour- 
able to the Government ; but when Parliament reassembled, 
Disraeli's Radical friend, Duncombe, returned to the 
attack, and demanded a public investigation by a select 
committee. Lord Howick moved an amendment for an 
inquiry by a select committee into a new specific charge 
brought forward by Duncombe, that his own letters had 
been opened, and this amendment, which had first been 
suggested by Manners, was seconded by Disraeli. Having 
accepted the Government's defence on the foreign part 
of the question, he proceeded to his favourite pastime of 
mocking Graham and Peel : 

The noble lord at the head of the Foreign Office, accurate 
as he is in the discharge of his duties, is a man of generous 
impulses, and is much more likely to have erred on the side 
of leniency than any other. But, even if the noble lord had 
erred, who could have ventured to criticise his conduct with 
such a stake on the die ? When that great master of ana- 
lytical narrative the Secretary of State traced the other night 
the vast and precise consequences of the non-interception of 
the letter of Mr. Mazzini, all must have felt he offered a com- 
plete vindication under any circumstances of his colleague. 
The letter sent, the solitary colony in the Mediterranean in 
commotion, the invasion of Calabria by an expedition of 
twenty men without arms, Italy in insurrection, the Austrians 
crossing the Apennines, and the French crossing the Alps, and 
England, who the right hon. Secretary assures us could not 
have been a silent spectator in a general war — and all pre- 
vented by intercepting the letter of Mr. Mazzini. (Loud cheers 

1 The story, however, that it led to the execution of the brothers Bandiera 
by the Bourbon Government at Naples is now completely disproved. 

312 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

and laughter.) Certainly, since the celebrated narrative of 
the House that Jack Built never was detail so consecutively 

He now came to Peel : 

The right hon. gentleman will pardon me for observing it, 
but he displayed an unusual warmth. I am aware that it by 
no means follows that the right hon. gentleman felt it. The 
right hon. baronet has too great a mind, and fills too eminent 
a position, ever to lose his temper ; but in a popular assembly 
it is sometimes expedient to enact the part of the choleric 
gentleman. The right hon. gentleman touched the red box 
with emotion. I know from old experience that when one 
first enters the House these exhibitions are rather alarming, 
and I believe that some of the younger members were much 
frightened, but I advised them not to be terrified. I told them 
that the right hon. baronet would not eat them up, would 
not even resign ; the very worst thing he would do would be 
to tell them to rescind a vote. (Loud cheering and shouts of 

Having indulged in these sallies, he hastened to dis- 
claim personal feeling against Graham. Of the Secretary 
of State he knew nothing but honour, and had expe- 
rienced nothing but courtesy, a declaration which was 
received with laughter by the Opposition. When, with 
equal emphasis, he disclaimed hostility to the Govern- 
ment, he was similarly rewarded with an ironical cheer 
from Peel. In making the last disclaimer, Disraeli had 
contrived to sound, whether intentionally or not, the 
special note of the coming conflict. The First Minister, 
he said, was superior to all parties ; he governed by pure 
reason, not by party. They were now in the third year 
of a Walpolian administration, and party feeling was 
extinct. This was not a question of confidence, and he 
therefore hoped that without offence he might give an 
independent vote. The motion was not brought forward 
in a hostile spirit, and as far as he was concerned was not 
supported in a hostile spirit.^ 

Peel was acutely sensitive to ridicule, and speaking 

1 The Times, February 21, 1845. 


on the following day he took up the insinuation that his 
warmth had been simulated : 

It is certainly very possible to manifest great vehemence 
of action, and yet not to be in a great passion. On the other 
hand, it is possible to be exceedingly cold, indifferent, and 
composed in your manner, and yet to cherish very acrimonious 
feelings. Notwithstanding the provocations of the hon. 
gentleman, I will not deal so harshly with him as he has dealt 
with me. He undertakes to assure the House that my 
vehemence was all pretended, and warmth all simulated. 
I on the contrary will do him entire justice ; I do believe 
that his bitterness was not simulated, but that it was entirely 
sincere. The hon. gentleman has a perfect right to support 
a hostile motion . . . but let him not say that he does it in a 
friendly spirit. 

' Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe ; 
Bold I can meet, perhaps may turn, the blow ; 
But of all plagues, good Heaven, Thy wrath can send, 
Save, save, save me, from the candid friend ! ' ^ 

The retort was effective, but the quotation very un- 
lucky. Peel's behaviour to Canning was still remembered 
by many on both sides of the House, and regarded as 
one of the doubtful passages of his life ; and his use of 
Canning's well-known lines therefore gave Disraeli an 
opening. A week later Duncorabe brought the subject 
of the opened letters before the House again, and Disraeli 
again supported him. He dwelt at length on the relations 
between Peel and his Conservative followers, accusing 
the Prime Minister of having introduced a system for 
preventing fair discussion on questions not of a party 
character. The system was established on two principles, 
or rather processes — innuendo and imputation ; the in- 
sinuation of base motive and the allegation of factious 
conduct. He protested against it. The system was not 
founded in justice or fair-play ; it was not founded upon 
a real understanding of the principles on which party 
connexion should exist. It was, in fact, a system of 
tyranny, and as degrading to those who exercised it as to 
those who endured it. 

1 Hansard, February 2], 1845. 

314 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

He illustrated its working from the debates on the 
present grievance, and gradually, and as it were without 
premeditation, he led up to his real object, Peel's reply 
to his previous speech. Peel in this reply had com- 
plained of the inconvenience of having an unexpected 
blow aimed at your right flank while you were engaged 
with the enemy in front. Disraeli retorted that the 
enemy in front never wished to fight, and that, with a 
large party to support him, Peel was in a position in 
which he could afford to be indulgent. 

There is another reason why he should not adopt this tone 
— he should not forget, after all, that a great many of his 
supporters were elected on the hustings under very different 
circumstances to those under which they sit here. (Loud 
cheers from the Opposition benches.) Really a little philo- 
sophical consideration from so great a statesman under such 
circumstances is the least we might expect. I admit that I 
for one was sent here by my constituents to sit on this side. 
He may object to me, although I think he has no great occasion 
to object that I am sometimes in a different lobby to himself; 
but I was sent to swell a Tory majority — to support a Tory 
Ministry. Whether a Tory Ministry exists or not I do not 
pretend to decide ; but I am bound to believe that the Tory 
majority still remains, and therefore I do not think that it is 
the majority that should cross the House, but only the 
Ministry. (Loud cheers and much laughter.) I hope that 
the right hon. gentleman, on reflection, will take a more con- 
descending and charitable view of our conduct than he has 
hitherto been pleased to do. I am sure myself I never misin- 
terpret the conduct of the right hon. gentleman. I know there 
are some who think that he is looking out for new allies. I 
never believed anything of the kind. The position of the 
right hon. gentleman is clear and precise. I don't believe 
he is looking to any coalition, although many of my con- 
stituents do. The right hon. gentleman has only exactly to 
reinain where he is. The right hon. gentleman caught the 
AVhigs bathing, and walked away with their clothes. (Much 
cheering and great laughter.) He has left them in the full 
enjoyment of their liberal position, and he is himself a 
strict conservative of their garments. (Continued cheers and 
laughter.) I cannot conceive that the right hon. gentleman 
will ever desert his party ; they seem never to desert him. 
There never was a man yet who had less need to find new 
friends. I therefore hope all these rumours will cease. I 


look on the right hon. gentleman as a man who has tamed 
the shrew of Liberalism by her own tactics. He is the political 
Petruchio, who has outbid you all. 

If we could only induce the right hon. gentleman, therefore, 
to take a larger and inore liberal view of his Parliamentary 
position than he seems to adopt in moments too testy for so 
great a man to indulge in, he would spare us some im- 
putations which I assure him are really painful. If the right 
hon. gentleman may find it sometimes convenient to reprove 
a supporter on his right flank, perliaps we deserve it — I for 
one am quite prepared to bow to the rod ; but really, if the 
right hon. gentleman, instead of having recourse to obloquy, 
would only stick to quotation, he may rely on it it would be 
a safer weapon. It is one he always wields with the hand 
of a master; and wlien he does appeal to any authority, in 
prose or verse, he is sure to be successful, partly because he 
never quotes a passage that has not previously received the 
meed of Parliamentary approbation, and partly and principally 
because his quotations are so happy. The right hon. gentle- 
man knows what the introduction of a great name does in 
debate — • how important is its effect, and occasionally how 
electrical. He never refers to any author who is not great, 
and sometimes who is not loved — Canning, for example. That 
is a name never to be mentioned, I am sure, in the House of 
Commons without emotion. We all admire his genuis. We 
all, at least most of us, deplore his untimely end ; and we all 
sympathise w4th him in his fierce struggle with supreme 
prejudice and sublime mediocrity — with inveterate foes and 
with candid friends. (Loud cheering.) The right hon. 
gentleman may be sure that a quotation from such an 
authority will always tell. Some lines, for example, upon 
friendship, written by Mr. Canning, and quoted by the right 
hon. gentleman ! The theme, the poet, the speaker — what 
a felicitous combination ! (Loud and long-continued cheers.) 
Its effect in debate must be overwhelming ; and I am sure, if 
it were addressed to me, all that would remain would be for 
me thus publicly to congratulate the right hon. gentleman, 
not only on his ready memory, but on his courageous con- 

In a contemporary publication ^ there is a description 
of Disraeli's Parliamentary manner which helps us to 
reconstruct the scene in the House of Commons during 
the delivery of this speech : 

1 The Times, March 1, 1845. 
2 Fraser^s Magazine, February, 1847. 

316 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

As an orator Mr. Disraeli cannot be pronounced highly 
eloquent. He never abandons himself to his theme, but 
always holds it in subjection to his purpose. In both voice 
and manner there is much monotony. He wants variety 
in action, gesture, expression, and elocution — always except- 
ing when he breathes his sarcastic vein. . . . His whole manner 
as an orator is peculiar to himself. It would scarcely be 
tolerated in another ; he seems so careless, supercilious, in- 
different to the trouble of pleasing. . . . His action, where he has 
any, is ungraceful ; nay, what is worse, it is studiously careless 

— even offeusively so. With his supercilious expression of 
countenance, slightly dashed with pomposity, and a dilettante 
affectation, he stands with his hands on his hips, or his thumbs 
in the armholes of his waistcoat, while there is a slight, very 
slight, gyratory movement of the upper part of his body, such 
as you will see ballroom exquisites adopt when they con- 
descend to prattle a flirtation. And then, with voice low- 
toned and slightly drawling, without emphasis, except when 
he strings himself up for liis points, his words are not so 
much delivered as that they flow from the mouth, as if it were 
really too much trouble for so clever, so intellectual — in a 
word, so literary a man to speak at all. . . . 

So much for his ordinary level speaking. When he makes 
his points, the case is totally different. Then his manner 
changes. He becomes more animated, though still less so 
than any other speaker of equal power over the House. You 
can then detect the nicest and most delicate inflexions in the 
tones of his voice; and they are managed, with exquisite art, 
to give effect to the irony or sarcasm of the moment. ... In 
conveying an innuendo, an ironical sneer, or a suggestion of 
contempt, which courtesy forbids him to translate into words 

— in conveying such masked enmities by means of a glance, 
a shrug, an altered tone of voice, or a transient expression of 
face, he is unrivalled. Not only is the shaft envenomed, but 
it is aimed with deadly precision by a cool hand and a keen 
eye, with a courage fearless of retaliation. He will convulse 
the House by the action that helps his words, yet leave nothing 
for his victims to take hold of. He is a most dangerous 
antagonist in this respect, because so intangible. And all the 
while you are startled by his extreme coolness and impassi- 
bility. . . . You might suppose him wholly unconscious of the 
effect he is producing; for he never seems to laugh or to 
chuckle, however slightly, at his own hits. While all around 
him are convulsed with merriment or excitement at some of 
his finely-wrought sarcasms, he holds himself, seemingly, in 
total suspension, as though he had no existence for the ordinary 
feelings and passions of humanity ; and the moment the 


shouts and confusion have subsided, the same calm, low, 
monotonous, but yet distinct and searching voice, is heard 
still pouring forth his ideas, while he is preparing to launch 
another sarcasm, hissing hot, into the soul of his victim. 

With the aid of this writer we can almost see Disraeli 
standing with pale face and impassive manner as he 
delivers his philippic ; hear the tone of every sentence as 
it falls from his lips ; and follow the emotions of his audi- 
ence as it listens, now perplexed, now expectant, now 
hilarious. We have first the low, level speaking in no 
way remarkable that makes the preparation ; the gradual 
development of the theme of Peel's disregard of party, 
till it leads to the great strokes of the bathing and the 
shrew ; then, when the House has been wrought up to a 
high pitch of excitement, the sudden descent by the 
speaker, who is alone grave and unmoved, to the low 
level again ; the feigned humility of his readiness to bow 
to the rod, and the seeming compliment to Peel's mastery 
of quotation ; Peel nervous and expectant, the House still 
puzzled ; the stealthy approach to the position from 
which the spring is to be made ; the name which is the 
keyword dropped as if by accident — ' Canning, for 
example ' ; Peel visibly uncomfortable ; the House be- 
ginning to be excited ; the drawling allusion to Can- 
ning's fierce struggle with ' sublime mediocrity ' — perhaps 
aimed at Peel, though all are still doubtful — and ' with — 
candid friends ' — when the pause, the inflexion of the 
speaker's voice, and the direction of his glance, convert 
doubt into certainty ; and then the culminating blow, 
'Some lines upon friendship written by Mr. Canning, and 
quoted by the right honourable gentleman ! ' and, where 
a lesser artist would have spoilt all by some crudity of 
comment, only the restrained but mordant words : ' The 
theme, the poet, the speaker — what a felicitous com- 
bination ! ' 

The effect of the speech on the House was stupendous. 
' It would have made you cry with delight,' wrote George 
Smythe to Mrs. Disraeli, ' to have heard the thunders of 

318 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

cheering ' ; and the excitement at the close was so great 
that it was some time before Graham, who rose to follow, 
could make himself heard. When he was able to proceed, 
he professed to rejoice that the time was now come when 
they were to have from the member for Shrewsbury open 
and avowed rebellion instead of covert mutiny. Peel 
spoke later, and hoped that Disraeli, ' having discharged 
himself of the accumulated virus of the last week,' now 
felt more at ease. He would not condescend to recipro- 
cate personalities. The hon. member must have been 
aware in 1841 of his relations with Mr. Canning, and 
ought not to have waited for a quotation from a poem 
before withdrawing his confidence ; and so forth in the 
same vein. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 

House of Commons, 
Half-past six [Monday, March 3]. 

My dearest Sa, 

I much regretted I could not get out on Saturday to send 
you a line from myself as to the great scene in the Commons 
the night before, from which that respectable assembly has 
not yet recovered. There never was an instance of a trip 
being succeeded by such a leap ; and the only thing I have 
now which can give you an idea of it is a sketch by Horace 
Walpole of a sudden ebullition by the elder Pitt in a drowsy 
House. As for P[eel], he was stunned and stupefied, lost his 
head, and, vacillating between silence and spleen, spoke much 
and weakly. Never was a greater failure ! Assuring me that 
I had not hurt his feelings, that he would never reciprocate 
personalities again, having no venom — The bell! 


His sister had already sent to Mrs. Disraeli her account 
of the joy and excitement at Bradenham ; of the old 
blind father's delight with the ' bathing,' the ' taming of 
the shrew,' and ' the tremendous closing personality ' ; 
and of his sitting by her murmuring, 'The theme, the poet, 
the speaker ! ' ceaselessly as she wrote. 

About a fortnight later Disraeli advanced to the attack 
again. Amid the general prosperity of the country, the 


agricultural interest alone was still in a state of depres- 
sion. Wheat, which in 1843 had been over sixty shillings, 
was now down to forty-five, and Cobden, wlio had never 
based his case for the repeal of the Corn Laws on an 
expectation of low prices, thought he saw his opportunity. 
He had once condemned Peel for proposing to lower 
prices by his simj^lification of the tariff, ' instead of 
aiming to maintain them by enlarging the circle of 
exchange ' ; and he now moved for an inquiry into the 
effect of the Corn Laws on agriculture, and made a highly 
successful speech on similar lines of argument. Peel, who 
had already been almost completely mastered by Cobden's 
a priori theory, listened, it is said, with ever lengthening 
face, till, crumpling up the notes he had been taking for 
a reply, he turned to Sidney Herbert, who sat next him 
on the bench, and said : ' You must answer this, for I 
cannot.' ^ Herbert obeyed, and in the course of his answer 
made the unlucky remark that it was ' distasteful to the 
agriculturists to come whining to Parliament at every 
period of temporary distress.' But Cobden's motion was 
defeated, Disraeli voting with the Government. 

A few days later, however, the question was reopened 
by a county member with a motion that in the disposal 
of the surplus due regard should be paid to the necessity 
of affording relief to the agricultural interest, and Disraeli 
supported him. Peel, having failed to secure any of the 
commercial treaties of which he had held out hopes in 
1842, had now abandoned reciprocit}^ and was engaged 
in a second revision of the general tariff, which repre- 
sented a great concession to the Manchester theory and 
a great advance towards the system which in the modern 
phrase is called 'insular free trade.' While the opinions 
of the Ministers had been in a state of flux, Disraeli had 
not changed his standpoint ; he still clung to the central 
position from which he could see all around him, and he 
was as little moved by the abstract reasoning of Cobden 
and his friends on the one side as by the narrow selfishness 
1 Morley's Cobden, I., p. 318. 

320 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

of the bigoted protectionists on the other. Lord John 
Russell in the present debate had just made a speech 
in the high a priori vein. Disraeli reminded him that 
protection was an expedient, not a principle, and that 
the question was therefore not to be settled by quotations 
of abstract dogmas. Alluding to Cobden's speech of a 
few days before, he said it was a speech not easily to be 
forgotten by anyone who heard it ; but the real problem 
was, Would they have protection, or would they have, 
not free trade, for that was not the alternative, but a 
system of free imports? Cobden had convinced himself 
that if we dispensed with protection the rest of the world 
would speedily follow our lead ; and Disraeli thus placed 
his finger precisely on the spot where Cobden's theories 
broke down. 

Coming to the immediate question, he recalled the 
debate and division on a similar resolution moved in 1836 
in a Whig House of Commons by his friend Lord Chandos ; 
reminded several Ministers of their votes on that occasion ; 
and with an allusion to the complaints made by his 
agricultural friends of the present conduct of the Prime 
Minister, and an ironical declaration that these complaints 
were unreasonable, he reached his peroration : 

There is no doubt a difference in the right hon. gentleman's 
demeanour as leader of the Opposition and as Minister of the 
Crown. But that's the old story ; you must not contrast 
too strongly the hours of courtship with the years of possession. 
'Tis very true that the right hon. gentleman's conduct is differ- 
ent. I remember him making his protection speeches. They 
were the best speeches I ever heard. It was a great thing 
to hear the right hon. gentleman say : ' I would rather be the 
leader of the gentlemen of England than possess the confidence 
of Sovereigns.' That was a grand thing. We don't hear 
much of 'the gentlemen of England' now. (Great cheering.) 
But what of that ? They have the pleasures of memory — 
the charms of reminiscence. They were his first love, and, 
though he may not kneel to them now as in the hour of 
passion, still they can recall the past; and nothing is more 
useless or unwise than these scenes of crimination and re- 
proach, for we know that in all these cases, when the beloved 
object has ceased to charm, it is in vain to appeal to the 


feelings. (Great laughter.) You know that this is true. 
Every man almost has gone through it. My hon. friends 
reproach the right hon. gentleman. The right hon. gentleman 
does what he can to keep them quiet; he sometimes takes 
refuge in arrogant silence, and sometimes he treats them 
with haughty frigidity ; and if they knew anything of human 
nature they would take the hint and shut their mouths. But 
they won't. And what then happens ? What happens under 
all such circumstances ? The right hon. gentleman, being 
compelled to interfere, sends down his valet, who says in the 
genteelest manner: 'We can have no whining here.' And 
that, sir, is exactly the case of the great agricultural interest 
— that beauty which everybody wooed and one deluded. 
There is a fatality in such charms, and we now seem to 
approach the catastrophe of her career. Protection appears 
to be in about the same condition that Protestantism was in 
1828. The country will draw its moral. For my part, if 
we are to have free trade, I, who honour genius, prefer that 
such measures should be proposed by the hon. member for 
Stockport than by one who through skilful Parliamentary 
manoeuvres has tampered with the generous confidence of a 
great people and a great party. For myself, I care not what 
may be the result. Dissolve, if you please, the Parliament 
you have betrayed, and appeal to the people, who, I believe, 
mistrust you. For me there remains this at least — the oppor- 
tunity of expressing thus publicly my belief that a Conserva- 
tive Government is an organised hypocrisy.^ 

' No report,' says a contemporary journalist, writing 
of this speech, ' can give an idea of the effect produced 
in the House of Commons. The manner of the delivery, 
the perfect intonation of the voice, the peculiar looks of 
the speaker — all contributed to a success that we believe 
to be perfectly unparalleled. No man within our recol- 
lection has wielded a similar power over the sympathies 
and passions of his hearers.' ^ The sentence at the close 
denouncing a Conservative Government as ' an organised 
hypocrisy ' called forth, as we are told by Disraeli himself, 
a demonstration of ' tumultuous sympathy ; but the 
cheers,' he adds, ' were in a great degree furnished by 
the voices opposite, and the Tory gentlemen beneath the 
gangway who swelled the chorus did so with downcast 

1 Hansard, March 17, and The Times, March 18, 1845, 
'^Weekly Chronicle, March 23, 1845. 


322 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

eyes, as if they yet hesitated to give utterance to feelings 
too long and too painfully suppressed.' ^ Peel, speaking 
later, again protested that he would not engage in a war 
of personal recrimination ; but he recalled Disraeli's 
speech in defence of the tariff of 18-42, and bitterly de- 
clared that he then held the panegyric in the same 
estimation as he at present held the attack. 

The House had now begun to await Disraeli's risings 
on the tiptoe of expectation. The writer quoted on a 
previous page unfolds the drama of the situation as it 
gradually developed — the complacency with which Peel 
sat at first in his place, confident in his strength and 
despising his assailant ; the cool audacity with which 
Disraeli advanced to the attack on a reputation established 
by a long career of Parliamentary triumph ; the compara- 
tive indifference which the House at first displayed, rising 
gradually to the point of malicious curiosity, and then 
changing into a sustained excitement and attention as it 
began to be manifest that Disraeli was working on a 
deliberate plan. 

For him to rise late, in a stormy debate, cool, even to 
iciness, amidst the fever-heat of party atmosphere around, 
was suddenly to arrest all passions, all excitement, all murmurs 
of conversation, and convert them into one absorbing feeling 
of curiosity and expectation. They knew not on whom to 
fix their watch — whether on the speaker, that they might not 
lose the slightest gesture of his by-play, or whether they 
should concentrate their attention on his distinguished victim, 
whom he had taught them almost to regard with levity. The 
power of the orator was more confessed, perhaps, in the ner- 
vous twitchings of Sir Robert Peel, and his utter powerless- 
ness to look indifferent, or to conceal his palpable annoyance, 
than even in the delirious laughter with which the House 
accepted and sealed the truth of the attacks — followed, in 
justice, let us add, by a sort of compunction that they should 
thus have joined in ridiculing their former idol. 

Peel, said Mr. Gladstone nearly half a century later, 
only tried once to answer, but 'failed utterly'; 2 his 

^ Lord George Bentinck, ch. i. 

2 Notes from the Life of an Ordinary Mortal, by A. G. C. Liddell, p. 271. 


personal followers, afraid alike of the assailant and the 
assailed, did not dare to intervene ; and Disraeli was 
thus left to march unmolested from triumph to triumph. 
The occasion of the next philippic, the last of this 
session, was furnished by Ireland. Peel's attempts to 
find a policy for that country had now led to something 
definite. The Whigs had persisted in regarding the Irish 
difficulty as purely political, or at the utmost religious, 
and had concentrated tlieir energies on political and re- 
ligious questions, such as the reform of corporations and 
the position of the Irish Church. Peel in a moment of 
insight had seemed to divine the truth that the trouble 
was really agrarian, and had appointed the Devon Com- 
mission, whose report, if it had been acted upon, would 
have averted unnumbered woes, social and political. But 
before the report appeared O'Connell's triumph in the 
House of Lords, and the rapid growth of the Repeal 
movement, impressed the Minister with the importance 
of finding a policy that would be speedier in its action. 

The tranquillity which might result from a reformed tenure 
of the soil must, if attainable, be a distant blessing, and at 
present he saw only the obstacles to its fulfilment. . . . He 
required a policy for the next post and the next division. 
There was in his view only one course to take, to outbid his 
predecessors as successfully in Irish politics as he was doing 
in taxes and tariffs. He resolved to appropriate the Liberal 
party of Ireland, and merge it into the great Conservative 
confederation which was destined to destroy so many things. 
He acted with promptitude and energy, for Sir Robert Peel 
never hesitated when he had made up his mind. His real 
character was very different from his public reputation. 
Far from being timid and wary, he was audacious, and even 
headstrong. It was his cold and constrained demeanour 
that misled the public. There never was a man who did 
such rash things in so circumspect a manner . . . and so Sir 
Robert Peel, without a qualm, suddenly began to govern 
Ireland by sending it ' messages of peace.' ^ 

One of the messages of peace was the famous Maynooth 
Bill. Since the time of Perceval a grant of X9,000 had 

1 Lord George Bentinck, ch. 7. 

324 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

been voted annually to Maynooth, the Roman Catholic 
seminary for the education of priests, and Peel now 
proposed to convert this grant into a permanent endow- 
ment of £30,000 a year. In introducing the Bill, he urged 
that the principle was already conceded, and justified 
the increase by dwelling on the wretched condition of the 
students, who at present had to be maintained on <£23 
a year, a sura too small to allow them even separate beds. 
But this tactful presentation of the case did not avail to 
appease Protestant feeling, which was soon roused to 
such fury that no one but Peel himself could have made 
headway against the storm. The Bill had already cost 
him the services of Gladstone, who had resigned at the 
beginning of the session, not disapproving, but feeling 
bound by declarations in his book on State and Church. 
Gladstone had explained his resignation in a speech 
which puzzled his best friends, and caused Disraeli to 
write to his sister, 'He may have an avenir, but I 
hardly think it ' ; and when the second reading came, he 
made the puzzle greater by declaring himself dissatisfied 
with Peel's temporising arguments and supporting the 
Bill on the very principle of concurrent endowment 
which he had formerly denounced. When he sat down 
Disraeli rose, but, giving way for the moment to the heir 
to the Norfolk dukedom, he was chosen next by the 
Speaker out of half a dozen competitors, in obedience 
to loud calls from all parts of the House. 

They had been told, he said, in the speech that intro- 
duced the Bill, that there were three courses open to them. 
He had never heard the Prime Minister bring forward 
a measure without making the same confession. In a 
certain sense, and looking to his own position, he was 
right. There was the course he had left ; there was the 
course he was pursuing ; and there was usually the course 
he ought to pursue. The right, hon. gentleman sent 
them back to precedents. With him a great measure 
was always founded on a small precedent ; he always 
traced the steam-engine back to the tea-kettle. In the 


present case he appealed to the action of Mr. Perceval and 
some odd vote in a dusty corner from which he inferred 
that the principle was admitted. 

Now, I deny that it is admitted, even in the limited sense. 
In the first place that was a temporary vote, and this is not; 
in fact, it is a permanent one. But I will not make that the 
ground of opposition. I will go to the arguments founded on 
circumstances of the late President of the Board of Trade 
[Gladstone]. I am astonished that he seems in his argument 
so completely to have supplanted principles. I looked upon 
the right hon. gentleman as the last paladin of principle, the 
very abstraction of chivalry ; and, when a question was 
raised which touched the elementary principle of constitutional 
settlement and ecclesiastical arrangement, I never believed 
that it would be the right hon. gentleman who would come 
down and give the House the small change of circamstances 
to settle this great account. (Laughter and cheers.) 

He then dealt at some length with Gladstone's plea 
for concurrent endowment, the positions of the two men 
being curiously the reverse of those they were to occupy 
a quarter of a century later on the question of the Irish 
Church. The right hon. gentleman was a subtle casuist, 
said Disraeli, but what was the result of his adroit argu- 
mentation ? That the principle upon which the State 
had hitherto been connected with religion in this country 
was now worn out, that they must seek a new principle, 
and that the Government which he had left because he 
supported it had discovered a new principle. But wherein 
did their new principle differ from that which underlay 
the measures proposed by the Whig Government, opposi- 
tion to which was the bond of union of the Conservative 
party and the foundation of the Conservative theory ? 
Where were they to stop in the application of the new 
principle ? Why should they stop ? They found their 
Erastian system crumbling under their feet ; were they 
to adopt a pantheistic principle, and was any body of 
sectarians who could satisfy Downing Street to have a 
claim for endowment ? He had no great confidence in 
the cure of souls in that quarter, and he could conceive 

326 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

nothing more at variance with the feelings of this country 
than a police surveillance over the religious ordinances 
of the people. He denied that in the existing order 
the Church of England was the creature of the state. 
The alliance between them had been formed and was 
maintained on equal terms ; and if it were attempted 
to introduce a species of Prussian discipline in ecclesiastical 
affairs, the people of this country would never submit to 
such a system. 

That alone was a sufficient ground for opposition to 
the Bill, but he had other reasons for opposing it. He 
opposed it on account of the manner in which it liad 
been introduced, and also on account of the men by 
whom it had been brought forward. He did not think 
the gentlemen who were now seated on the Treasury 
bench were morally entitled to bring such a measure 
forward. It involved a principle against which they 
had all along signally struggled. Because they had crossed 
the floor and abandoned with their former seats their 
former professions, had they a right to ask the House to 
look to the merits of their measures and forget themselves 
and their protestations ? Such pretensions led to the 
question whether party, as a political instrument, was to 
continue to govern them. To object to party govern- 
ment was nothing more or less than to object to Par- 
liamentary government. A popular assembly without 
parties — 500 isolated individuals — could not stand five 
years against a Minister with an organised government 
without becoming a servile senate. Here was a Minister 
who habitually brought forward as his own measures 
those very schemes and proposals to which, when in 
Opposition, he always avowed himself a bitter and 
determined opponent. The result was the country was 
left without an Opposition, and they heard the low 
murmurs of the people because there was no exponent 
in that House of a great national opinion. On consti- 
tutional grounds he might say that the noble lord (John 
Russell), the hereditary leader of the Whig party, which 


founded Parliamentary government, ought, even though 
he approved of it, to oppose the present measure. 

He hoped he woukl not be accused of ' bandying 
personalities ' in making observations which were in entire 
and complete relation to the motion before the House. 
Certainly they lived in strange times, when a person in so 
eminent a position as that of First Minister of the Crown 
could stop Parliamentary criticism by calling it ' person- 
ality.' This system of putting down Parliamentary dis- 
cussion had been tried in another place, but he did not 
know that the position occupied by *• another place ' in 
the public estimation was one of which the House of 
Commons was particularly ambitious. It was not 
Radicalism, it was not the revolutionary spirit of the 
nineteenth century, that had consigned the place in 
question to illustrious insignificance ; it was Conservatism 
and a Conservative dictator. The same arts that had 
broken the spirit of ' another place ' might lower the tone 
of the House of Commons ; as the one had been drilled 
into a guard-room,! ^\^q other might be degraded into a 
vestry. If they chose to maintain a Government that 
announced no distinctive principles, and an Opposition 
that did not oppose, he was certain that no degree of 
spirit could resist the influence of such a system. 

If you are to have a popular Government, if you are to have 
a Parliamentary administration, the conditions antecedent 
are, that you should have a Government which declares the 
principles upon which its policy is founded, and then you 
can have on them the wholesome check of a constitutional 
Opposition. What have we got instead ? Something has 
risen up in this country as fatal in the political world as it has 
been in the landed world of Ireland — we have a great Parlia- 
mentary middleman. (Immense cheering.) It is well known 
what a middleman is ; he is a man who bamboozles one party, 
and plunders the other (great laugliter), till, having obtained 
a position to which he is not entitled, he cries out : ' Let us have 
no party questions, but fixity of tenure.' I want to have a 
commission issued to inquire into the tenure by which Downing 

1 The Duke of Wellington, it will be remembered, was leader of the House 
of Lords. 

328 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

Street is held. I want to know whether the conditions of 
entry have been complied with, and whether there are not 
some covenants in the lease which are already forfeited. I 
hope I shall not be answered by Hansard. I am not surprised 
the right hon. gentleman should be so fond of recurring to 
that great authority ; he has great advantages ; he can look 
over a record of thirty, and more than thirty, years of an 
eminent career. But that is not the lot of everyone, and I 
may say, as a general rule, I am rather surprised that ex- 
perienced statesmen should like to recur to that eminent 
publication. What, after all, do they see on looking over a 
quarter of a century or more even of their speeches in Han- 
sard ? What dreary pages of interminable talk, what predic- 
tions falsified, what pledges broken, what calculations that 
have gone wrong, what budgets that have blown up ! And 
all this, too, not relieved by a single original thought, a single 
generous impulse, or a single happy expression ! Why, 
Hansard, instead of being the Delphi of Downing Street, is 
but the Duuciad of politics. But I want something more 
than quotations from Hansard to account for how parties have 
been managed in this House. It is a system so matter-of-fact 
and yet so fallacious, taking in everybody, though everybody 
knows he is deceived ; so mechanical, and yet so Machiavellian 
that I can hardly say what it is, except a humdrum hocus- 
pocus, in which the order of the day is read to take in a nation. 

If it were a vote which concerned the social and political 
equality of the Roman Catholic population, he would go 
as far as any man, perhaps farther than many. But no 
one pretended that that was now the question. This 
measure was not flattering to the pride of the Roman 
Catholics or solacing to their feelings. It was not a 
great grant ; he thought it was a mean, a meagre, and a 
miserable grant. 

If the Roman Catholic priesthood are to be educated by the 
State, it must be something greater than the difference be- 
tween £23 and £28, something higher than the difference 
between three in a bed and two. That is not the way in which 
I would approach a reverend priesthood. I cannot believe, 
therefore, that the Roman Catholic gentlemen, on reflection — 
and I hope they will have time for reflection — will vote for 
this measure, when they consider what it is. Who is he who 
introduces it? It is the same individual whose bleak shade 
fell on the sunshine of your hopes for more than a quarter of 


a century. Will not these considerations affect you ? "What 
if it be a boon ? — 1 deny that it is one — but if it were such 
a boon as it is said to be, would you accept it from hands 
polluted ? It is not from him you ought to accept it — not 
from him who, urged on, as he reluctantly admitted, by a fatal 
State necessity, accompanied the concession of your legitimate 
political claims by the niggardly avowal that he was obliged 
to concede them. 

As for the Whigs, he was almost in despair of appealing 
to their hereditary duties, their constitutional convictions, 
or their historical position, but he should have thought 
that the noble lord was weary of being dragged at the 
triumphal car of a conqueror who did not conquer him 
in fair fight. He hoped, then, for their aid, and the aid 
of the Roman Catholic gentry, in opposing this measure, 
as well as for the aid of those who would reject it on 
exclusive Protestant principles or on the general principle 
he had tried to uphold against state interference. 

But, whatever may be the various motives and impulses 
which animate these different sections of opinion, there is at 
least one common ground for co-operation — there is one ani- 
mating principle which is likely to inspire us all. Let us in 
this House re-echo that which I believe to be the sovereign 
sentiment of this country ; let us tell the people in high places 
that cunning is not caution, and that habitual perfidy is not 
high policy of state. On that ground we may all join. Let 
us bring back to this House that which it has for so long a 
time past been without — the legitimate influence and salutary 
check of a constitutional Opposition. That is what the coun- 
try requires, what the country looks for. Let us do it at once 
in the only way in which it can be done, by dethroning this 
dynasty of deception, by putting an end to the intolerable yoke 
of official despotism and Parliamentary imposture. (Loud 
cheers.) ^ 

Hobhouse, who was watching the scene from the front 
bench opposite, has recorded his impressions during the 
delivery of this speech : 

Peel hung his head down, changing colour and drawing his 
hat over his eyes ; and Graham grinned a sort of compelled 

1 The Times, April 12, 1845. 

330 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

smile, and looked a good deal at me, who happened to be just 
opposite, to see how we took the attack. Our front row was 
well behaved, but Russell and Palmerston and George Grey 
whispered to me, ' It is all true ' ; and even Ellice laughed, 
and Macaulay ^ looked happy. The speech was listened to 
with profound attention, and spoken without the slightest 
hesitation or reference to notes. ^ 

Disraeli said subsequently that it was his opposition 
to the Maynooth Bill that broke up Young England, and 
as a matter of fact S my the and Manners both supported 
the Government ; but the same thing had happened on 
the agricultural motion which was the occasion of the 
previous philippic, and the soul was out of Young England 
before the Maynooth speech was delivered.^ 

To Lord Carrington. 

House of Commons, 

April 15, 1845. 

My dear Lord, 

I am meditating the moment that Parliament will permit 
me to make a visit to Berlin ; and I am afraid that I must not 
appear there except in a red coat. If your lordship would 
therefore kindly appoint me one of your lieutenants, I will 
endeavour to maintain the honor of the cloth at foreign Courts, 
and shall feel extremely obliged to you. 

The petitions this afternoon re Maynooth are more numerous 
than ever, and the debate has the aspect of a long protrac- 

Ever, my dear Lord, 

Your obliged and faithful servant, 

B. Disraeli. 

Eight years earlier, when the Whigs were in office, 
Disraeli, through Lord Chandos, had unsuccessfully tried 

1 Macaulay himself in the debate made an attack on Peel, which, though 
in some respects it sounds like an echo of Disraeli's, is really more violent : 
'Did you think,' he asked, 'when you went on, session after session, 
thwarting and reviling those whom you knew to be in the right, and flat- 
tering all the worst passions of those whom you knew to be in the wrong, 
that the day of reckoning would never come ? It has come. There ycu 
sit, doing penance for the disingenuousness of years.' 

2 Lord Broughton^ s Iiecollections,Vl., p. 140. 

3 Maynooth, it may be noted, was equally disruptive in its effect on the 
Manchester School, Cobden voting with the Government, and Bright against. 



5 2 

i-i CO 


^ is 

P3 T. 


1845] THE RED COAT 331 

to obtain the coveted red coat. He got it on the present 
occasion, but the visit to Berlin was not, it would seem, paid 
till after the lapse of a generation; when, though he had 
garments in his wardrobe even more resplendent, he was 
o-reat enousrh in himself to be content to make his im- 
pression by ostentatious simplicity. 

To Sarah Disraeli. 


Sept. 17. 
We are here without having had the slighest intention of 
coming. But hearing that the place had beauty and seclu- 
sion, we agreed to pitch our tent here, if we could find any 
sort of accommodation. This was difficult, as it is an ex- 
tremely savage place; few of the inhabitants, and none of 
the humbler classes, talk French. There is no library, book- 
seller's shop, nor newspaper of any sort; they never heard 
of Galignani, and I hardly know whether the majority of 
the people are conscious of the three glorious days. It is 
quite French Flanders; their provisions come from Holland; 
the Hotel de Ville was built by the Spaniards, and religion is 
supreme. The country around is rich, and the landscape a 
vast panorama, and as the place is high, we conclude it is 
healthy. We have taken a house for a month and have 
hired a Flemish cook, who, ]\Iary Anne desires me to tell my 
mother, stews pigeons in the most delicious way : eggs, cloves, 
and onions, ending in a red-brown sauce, a dish of the time 
of the Duke of Alva. Fruit and poultry plentiful and cheap. 
Six fowls for 5 francs, meat 6d. per pound. We crossed from 
Dover to Boulogne, a very rough passage. Our first walk at 
Boulogne we found Sybil affiched in a large placard, ' Disraeli's 
New Novel,' in every window. We travelled fvova. Boulogne 
en voiture to this place, sleeping the first night at St. Omer. 


Oct, 26. 

The tragedy of Ely Cathedral ^ has shaken me to the centre. 
It is vain to speak of such a catastrophe : impossible not 
to think of it. Since the death of the Duke of Orleans, no 
sudden end has been more terrible. 

I get up at half-past five, and don't find it difficult, going 
to bed by nine. The effort was great at first, and the house 
very unmanageable. You cannot expect any news from us; 

1 Disraeli's cousin, Georse Basevi (1794-1845), the well-known archi- 
tect, had been killed by falling from the belfry. 

332 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

we know no one and hear nothing, except from you. I have 
been able to write very regularly, and made better progress 
than usual, which is encouraging. Your life is as secluded 
as our own, yet you always make your letters interesting. 
We have a pretty garden, which gives us mignonette and 
Alpine strawberries ; and the autumn there is mellow, fine, 
and mild, thougli we live on the top of a mountain. We look 
upon a most charming landscape, and can see thirty or forty 
miles ahead, and the sea, on a clear day. We now see 
Galignani regularly, and an unknown Englishwoman — Miss 
King, as I observe by the direction of her paper — sends me 
the Illustrated Times, and another unknown. Bell's Life. 


By the beginning of December the Disraelis are in 
Paris, in their old quarters in the Rue de Rivoli. 

To Baron Lionel de Rothschild. 

H6tel de l'Europe, Rue de Rivoli, 

Dec. 3, 1845. 
My dear Baron, 

The journals of to-day give us the interesting information 
of the birth of your son.^ I hope he will prove worthy of his 
pure and sacred race, and of his beautiful brothers and sisters. 
We are anxious to hear that Madame Lionel is as well as we 
could all wish, and that you are happy. 

We arrived here on Sunday, after having passed more than 
two months in a perfect solitude at Cassel, French Flanders, 
a rich rural country. My wife walked 300 miles in two months, 
of which she is very proud, and by which she has much 
benefited. She had no companions, except those boxes of 
books at which you laughed, and which are all exhausted. 
We rose every morn at half-past five, and retired at half-past 
nine : our greatest adventure the discovery of a village. 

Yesterday I had the honor of a very long and interesting 
audience of his Majesty. The fate of the English Ministry, 
the Oregon question, and what the King calls ' the com- 
mercial crisis,' the staple of our talk. They seem, all three, 
much to disquiet him. I apprehend that, though the Corn 
Laws must eventually break up the Government, it will not 
sink before one bad harvest. The movement of Lord John 
was able, and absolutely required by the interests of the Whig 
party. He was resolved that Peel should no longer jockey 

1 Mr. Leopold de Rothschild. 


The King told me that it was not true, as frequently stated, 
that the arbitration of the Oregon question had ever been 
proposed to him. He seemed to think that it would have 
been well if it had been so, but that it was now too late. 
The American Government is a mauoaise plaisantene, for it 
governs nothing except the Customs-houses. It has no more 
influence over the Western States, than over Devonshire or 
Dorset. . . . 

I have not yet seen a human being here ; nor have we even 
left a card, except yesterday at your families. The weather is 
soft and charming. . . . 

Ever, dear Lionel, 

Yours sincerely, 

B. DiSRAEIil. 

Events during the autumn had been hastening on in 
England, and this letter has anticipated. Disraeli's 
onslaughts of the previous session had produced no visible 
effect on the position of the Ministry, as he himself 

Practically speaking, the Conservative Government at the 
end of the session of 1845 was far stronger than even at the 
commencement of the session of 1842. If they had forfeited 
the hearts of their adherents, they had not lost their votes, 
while both in Parliament and the country they had succeeded 
in appropriating a mass of loose, superficial opinion not 
trammelled by party ties, and which complacently recognised 
in their measures the gradual and moderate fulfilment of a 
latitudinarian policy both in Church and State. Their position 
was also aggrandised and confirmed by a conviction then 
prevalent, and which it is curious to observe is often current 
on the eve of great changes, that the Ministry of Sir Robert 
Peel were the only tody of men then competent to carry on 

The Opposition, he adds, was split into sections, the 
condition of the Whig party absolutely forlorn, and the 
Anti-Corn-Law League nearly reduced to silence. ' The 
Manchester confederates seemed to be least in favour with 
Parliament and the country on the very eve of their 

But the weather during the summer and autumn was 

1 Lord George Bentinck, ch. i. 

334 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

bad. In reply to an inquiry by Disraeli as to the harvest, 
his sister wrote from Bradenham in the middle of October: 

It rains here so much that I do not think a dove would find 
a dry spot to rest upon. It cannot be called autumn, for 
nearly all the leaves have been washed otf the trees these 
week's past. It is a very bad harvest — half the ear blighted, 
the yield consequently very short. . . . There is a good deal 
of corn out here still, and a great deal in the North, which 
must be entirely spoilt. But our present despair and every- 
one's is ' the potato cholera.' 

The potato disease was first reported from the South 
of England ; but it soon declared itself in Ireland, where 
there was far more at stake, and before the end of October 
the accounts became alarming. 'This mysterious but 
universal sickness of a single root ' was, in fact, to quote 
Endymion, to 'change the history of the world.' Peel 
summoned the Cabinet for October 31, and it met four 
times in the course of a week. '"There is no gambling 
like politics," said Lord Roehampton, as he glanced at 
The Times. " Four Cabinets in one week; the Government 
must be more sick than the potatoes." ' ^ During the last 
couple of years Peel's mind had been gradually mastered 
by Cobden's abstract reasoning, and he had completely 
changed his views on the question of the tariff. He had 
hoped there would be no need for a public recantation 
during the term of the existing Parliament, which had 
been expressly returned to support him as a protectionist 
Minister ; and towards the close of the session of 1845 
he had stated in Parliament on three different occasions 
that his policy was one of gradual relaxation of duties, 
and that he could not consent to the total and immediate 
abolition of the Corn Laws. But the failure of the potato 
crop upset all his plans. Something had to be done, and 
his judgment of what was required by the practical 
emergency was affected by the fermentation proceeding 
in his mind. In the first days of realising that scarcity 
was threatened in Ireland, he wrote to his Lord Lieu- 

^ Endymion, ch. 82. 


tenant : ' The remedy is the removal of all impediments 
to the import of all kinds of human food — that is, the 
total and absolute repeal for ever of all duties on all 
articles of subsistence.'^ When the Cabinet met, the 
policy he proposed was to open the ports at once by an 
Order in Council, call Parliament together to sanction the 
Order, and then proceed after Christmas with a Bill for 
the permanent modification of the Corn Laws. He was 
supported in these proposals only by Aberdeen, Graham, 
and Sidney Herbert. Stanley, who alone had much ac- 
quaintance with Ireland, showed their futility as a meas- 
ure of relief, pointing out quite truly that what was 
required by the Irish cottiers was, not reduction of price, 
but the absolute means of purchase ; that the two great 
crops of the small farmers in Ireland were potatoes and 
oats ; and that at the moment when they had lost one 
it was proposed to relieve them by reducing the price of 
the other. After its four meetings, the Cabinet separated 
early in November without having reached a decision. 

It was now that Lord John Russell, watching the pro- 
ceedings from Edinburgh, and divining the perplexity 
of Ministers, divining also, no doubt, that the clothes of 
the Whigs were again in danger of being stolen, executed 
the movement to which Disraeli alludes in his letter to 
Baron Rothschild. Without consultation with any of his 
colleagues, he issued a manifesto to his constituents in the 
City of London proclaiming the gravity of the crisis, con- 
demning the inertness of the Government, and on his own 
side abandoning the fixed duty to which the Whigs had 
hitherto clung, and ranging himself with Cobden as an 
advocate of total repeal. The movement has often been 
praised as bold, but is perhaps better described as rash,^ 
and it certainly, as we shall see, proved a constant cause 
of embarrassment to the Whigs in the subsequent session. 
The manifesto, though dated November 22, did not appear 

1 Parker's Life of Peel, III., p. 224. 

2 Even Disraeli, who commended it in his letter to Baron Rothschild, 
soon came, as we shall see, to regard it as a great blunder. 

336 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

in TJie Times till November 27, and the Cabinet had 
begun a fresh series of meetings on November 25. Rus- 
sell's letter had, of course, an effect on their delibera- 
tions, but the effect would appear to have been greatly 
exaggerated.! Peel, though he recognised that the pol- 
icy of opening the ports might now seem to have been 
adopted at the dictation of the Whig leader, was ready 
to go on if supported by a united Ministry ; but he had 
been determined from the tirst that their next step must 
be the virtual repeal of the Corn Laws, and it was his 
determination that told with his colleagues, not the 
Edinburgh letter. The Duke of Wellington, though not 
persuaded of the necessity of action, announced that it 
was his' intention to support the Prime Minister ; and the 
majority who had gone with Stanley a few weeks before 
now followed the Duke's lead. Even Stanley, when he 
found that he stood almost alone, took two days for 
reflection, and then offered to consent to suspension of 
the Corn Laws if suspension alone was intended. 

But when he was told that the temporary emergency of 
apprehended scarcity in Ireland was not to lead to a remedy 
commensurate in duration with the expected evil, but was 
to be made the groundwork of suspending, for the purpose 
of not re-enacting, the Corn Law, he felt that he could not 
take that course consistently with his own feelings as an 
honourable man ; and that, with such ulterior views, to 
propose to Parliament to sanction the opening of the ports 
would be to lead those who were disposed to support the 
Government into a snare. He said that he had tried to 
school himself into the belief that, under certain circum- 
stances, the interests of the country might require even a 
sacrifice of personal and public character, but he had failed 
in bringing himself to so humiliating a conclusion.^ 

The fatal Cabinet meeting was on December 4 ; and 
The Times of that day had contained an announcement 
that the Government had decided to call Parliament to- 
gether for the first week in January, and propose total 

1 Among others by Disraeli in his Lord George Bentinck, writing with- 
out documents that have now become accessible. 

2 Lord George Bentinck, ch. 2. 


repeal. This announcement, which, it is now known, was 
founded on information that came from Aberdeen, 
caused great public excitement; and it probably did not 
tend to restore harmony in the divided Cabinet. Peel 
waited a day after Stanley's ultimatum, and then told 
his colleagues that he thought it impossible to go on; 
and on the 6th he went to the Queen and tendered his 
resignation. Russell, who was sent for, did not at first 
either accept or decline, so Peel's resignation was not at 
once made effective. It did not become public for nearly 
a week, and the situation remained ambiguous for nearly 
a fortnight in all, while Russell was on the way from 
Edinburgh to Osborne or engaged in consulting his friends 
as to the possibility of forming a Government. 

To Lord John 3fanners. 


Dec. 17. 
My dear Lord John, 

What is going to happen ? After living three months in 
profound solitude in a Flemish wilderness, really never having 
conversed with a single being or even read a journal, I arrived 
here a fortnight ago, and found myself in a political atmo- 
sphere of fever heat. The King sent for me the day after my 
arrival, and from that moment I have conversed with none 
but Ministers and Ambassadors, of all parties and all countries, 
and all equally distracted. 

As I see you are at Melton, furiously hunting, this will 
reach you. Where is G S [my the]? I have not heard from 
him for months, and expected to find him here, but in vain. 
Has he gone on to Stamboul? If not, and in England, I 
wish you would send him a line and beg him to write to me, 
or come over. 

I heard last night from a good quarter that the Whigs 
had resolved to decline the enterprise. The King inquired 
whether Gladstone, who is not compromised in the ' four 
Cabinet Councils in one week,' could not lead the personnel 
of the Commons, with the Duke in the Lords. It is quite 
clear that the feeling in favor of protection is much stronger 
than was supposed by many, and that it will be impossible 
to carry repeal. 

Conjecture is quite baffled here in high places. In lower 
ones there is a general opinion that Peel will return in triumph ; 

VOL. II — z 

338 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

but this appears to me a superficial conclusion, and I cannot 
but believe it highly improbable. At all events he has lost 
his prestige. Every resignation weakens a Minister, and is 
almost as foolish a thing as frequent Cabinet Councils. No 
one will now talk of a Walpolian Government; yet he might 
have completed his term. I am told that a month ago Thiers 
said : ' If it be a real famine, Sir Robert will be a great man, 
and will command his party; but if it be a false famine, 
and he tries to play tricks, he is lost.' Now, I think it is a 
false famine ; and the question is not ripe enough for his 
fantastic pranks. He is so vain that he wants to figure in 
history as the settler of all the great questions ; but a Parlia- 
mentary constitution is not favorable to such ambitions: 
things must be done by parties, not by persons using parties 
as tools — especially men without imagination or any in- 
spiring qualities, or who, rather, offer you duplicity instead 
of inspiration. Pray write. 

Ever yours, 


The King inquired a great deal about Gladstone of me. It 
was evident that his name had recently been suggested to 
his Majesty by some high quarter. I told the King that he 
was quite equal to Peel, with the advantage of youth. 

Meanwhile Disraeli, in Paris, had been endeavouring to 
simplify the problem before Russell by smoothing the 
way for the return of Palmerston to the Foreign Office. 

To Lord Palmerston. 

Sunday, December 14.] 

My dear Lord, 

M. Guizot invited me to a private conversation on 
Friday evening on the intelligence which had arrived from 
London that morning. In some casual talk previously with 
the Due Decazes I had ascertained that it was M. Guizot's 
opinion that Sir Robert Peel would be restored to power 
dans une quinzaine ; M. Guizot did not express this opinion 
to me, but he elicited mine that the return of Sir Robert 
Peel, assuming the supposed causes of his retirement to be 
correct, was highly improbable. 

Yesterday the King, whom I have had the honor occasion- 
ally to see during the throes of the last fortnight, during which, 
though anxious, he seemed confident as to Peel's triumph, 
sent for me to St. Cloud. I found his Majesty grave and 


calm, more ready to listen than to talk, very consecutive 
and keeping to the point [and not in any degree indulging 
in those amusing but rambling details which sometimes 
distinguish his conversation].^ His Majesty told me that 
Guizot had mentioned at the morning Council that he had 
seen me on the previous eve; his Majesty's belief in Peel had 
evaporated: he repeated more than once that Guizot was 
disabused of his idea that Peel would return ; that every 
resignation weakened a Minister, and was almost as silly a 
thing as frequent Cabinet Councils. After some conversation 
on this head, the probable materials of the new Ministry, etc., 
the King, assuming that there would be a Whig Government, 
spoke to me very much of your lordship's accession to 

Your lordship is doubtless aware of the apprehensions which 
the people of this country entertain on that subject, and 
therefore I will not dwell on them. Your lordship is a man 
of too great experience and of too great a mind either to 
exaggerate or to depreciate the importance of such circum- 
stances. Being not unfamiliar with the subject, it was in 
my power to discuss it in all its bearings, and to make those 
representations to the King, and enter into those explana- 
tions and details, which were desirable. I impressed on his 
Majesty with delicacy, but without reserve, that your lord- 
ship was our first Foreign Minister who had taken the French 
intimacy as an avowed element of our national policy, and 
that the original want of cordiality had not been manifested 
by you ; that from your frank character you required frank- 
ness and decision ; that if these were not wanting on the part 
of the French Government I felt sure that your lordship 
would never take a litigious view of the policy of France, but 
would rather assist in any fair development of its external 
influence, which had for its object to popularise the throne 
and satisfy the public. There followed on the part of the King 
before repeated explanations of Spanish and Egyptian affaiis, 
but expressed with gravity, much earnestness, and clearness. 

This conversation lasted about half an hour, when the 
King, rising, said: ['We must not lose all the music' There 
was a concert.]^ 'There are persons here to whom I must 
give a word, but do not go, as I wish to speak to you again.' 
Accordingly, about half-past ten o'clock, the concert having 
finished [which, by-the-by, was very choice, as there was 
no one but the Court] ,^ His Majesty approached me, and 

1 In the draft from which this letter is given, the words in brackets are 
lightly erased. 

2 The words in brackets are pencilled interpolations, apparently of a 
later date. 

340 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

invited me to follow hiiu into his cabinet. He said, the 
moment we Avere seated : ' What you have said of Lord 
Palmerston has given me much pleasure. I have been think- 
ing of it. I feel also persuaded that Peel cannot be brought 
back again in triumph; and if he were to return, he is no 
longer the same man. I will not deny I regret Lord Aberdeen. 
But if Lord Palmerston will enter the administration without 
rancune, and with a friendly disposition, all may be well. 
I consider that affairs are very serious. It is not isolated 
questions now — Spain, Turkey — as before. Isolated questions 
settle themselves. Or even American, the same. It is the 
state of the Continent that occupies me.' His Majesty then 
entered at great length on this subject. I perceived that the 
state of Germany disquiets him, and that he believes that a 
vast revolutionary movement in Central Europe is not to be 
avoided. Approaching midnight his Majesty dismissed me. 

Notwithstanding my attempts at brevity, my letter has 
already grown much longer than I intended, and I have not 
even yet expressed its purpose. It is this : I suspect, from 
many circumstances, that a sort of cry of (affected terror) 
will be raised up in England against your lordship, sure to 
be re-echoed here, which may add to the embarrassments of 
your Government, which I doubt not are sufficient without it. 
Do not you think some means might be devised to terminate 
this for ever ? Had you made your projected visit to Paris,^ 
and become known to this impressionable people, all would 
have been right. But now that is, of course [illegible]. I 
do not think that any mere representation by the Press 
will effect the purpose. These representations are important 
when they reiterate and amplify the words of some eminent 
personage, but the world requires the reality of the individual 
for the original impulse. On the meeting of Parliament, under 
circumstances which render developments of policy on the 
part of a Government not unusual, it would not be difficult 
to arrange something which would elicit a satisfactory exposi- 
tion. I am sure I should be very happy to assist you in this 
respect, were I present ; but if the Parliament be summoned 
speedily, I do not think I shall be tempted to quit this agree- 
able residence — especially as the great object of my political 
career is now achieved. However, you would not find much 
difficulty in devising the requisite machinery. 

Our Embassy here, I am credibly informed, have been left 
perfectly in the dark. Lord Cowley has dislocated his 
shoulder, but * Lord ' Hervey, as the Deputies call him, was 

1 Palmerston visited Paris the following Easter, and succeeded by his 
social tact in dispelling for the moment the prejudice against him. 


active at Guizot's levee on Friday, assuring all that the Whigs 
can never form a Government while St. Aulaire wrings his 
hands and shrugs his shoulders like a doctor, and asks in a 
whisper what you can do against la majorite des Lords. 

I see no change in the King since 1842, and I know, from 
an authentic quarter, that his health is perfect. 

From Lord Palmerston. 

3, Carlton Terrace, 

Dec. 18, 1845. 

My dear Sir, 

I am extremely obliged to you for your letter of the 14th, 
which I was accidentally prevented from answering yesterday. 
I thank you very much for the just explanation which you 
have given to the King and Guizot and others of my feelings 
and policy in regard to France, and you may confidently 
speak in the same sense on the subject to anybody with whom 
you may converse upon it. I have the strongest conviction 
that the great foundation of the foreign policy, both of an 
English and of a French Government, ought to be a cordial 
and sincere good understanding between England and France ; 
and though two great and independent nations must from 
time to time have on particular subjects somewhat separate 
views and interests, I can see no reason why, with a right 
good-will on all sides, that cordial good understanding should 
not be firmly maintained ; and it will always [be] my anxious 
endeavour to use any power which I may possess to accomplish 
so important a purpose. 

Nothing is yet finally settled, but I should think that before 
many hours have elapsed it will be known which of the three 
possible Governments the country is to have : John Eussell's, 
Peel's, or a Protection Cabinet. Whatever may be the 
allurements of Paris, I think you will hardly refrain from 
being in your place on so curious and interesting an occasion 
as the opening of the approaching session of Parliament. 

My dear sir, 

Yours sincerely, 


It is worth while to add Disraeli's account of this 
transaction in his Lord G-eorge Bentinck:^ 

About this time Louis Philippe of Orleans, King of the 
French, exercised a great influence over public affairs. This 

1 Ch. 14. 

342 DISRAELI AXD PEEL [chap, xi 

Prince had entirely identified himself with the Peel adminis- 
tration. There existed between his Majesty and the English 
Minister not only a sentiment of sympathy, but one of reciprocal 
admiration. Each believed the other the ablest man in their 
respective countries; their system of government was the 
same, to divert the public mind from political change by the 
seduction of physical enjoyment, and to neutralise opinion 
in the pursuit of material prosperity ; finally, they agreed in 
another point, that their tenure of power was as interminable 
as the nature of things admitted, and that it was insured 
by mutual co-operation. 

No one was more amazed and more alarmed by the breaking 
up of the Conservative Government in November, 1845, than 
the King of the French. With the quickness of perception 
which with him always seemed rather instinct than thought, 
he instantly trembled before a long vista of war and revolution. 
His fears of Lord Palmerston were fed by all the diplomacy 
of Europe, and especially by the connexions of the late 
Conservative Cabinet, who still hoped that the repugnance of 
the European Courts to the appointment of that Minister 
might, in conjunction with the domestic weakness of the Whig 
party, yet bring back the game to Sir Robert. 

One to whom the King had disburdened his mind in an 
hour of intolerable anxiety, and from whom his Majesty 
asked that counsel which circumstances permitted to be 
given, tried to relieve him from these bugbears of state, in 
a truer appreciation of the position than those around him 
cared to encourage. It was represented to the King that 
a cordial understanding between the two countries had 
become a necessity for every English administration ; that 
the Parliament and the people of England would never 
support a Minister whom they believed to be inclined to 
treat the French connexion with levity or disregard ; and 
that it was especially the interest of the Whigs in their present 
feeble condition to prove to the country that they took office 
with no prejudice against their neighbours. With these views, 
and in order at once to relieve his mind, it was suggested to 
the King that through the medium of some private friend it 
might be wise to make an effort to disembarrass this question 
of the personal complications with which it had been the 
interest of certain individuals too long to invest it; and that 
he should seek for some frank explanation of the feelings 
with respect to France with which the new English Minister 
returned to office. 

The King, who was a man of great impulse, grasped at the 
suggestion, and acted upon it immediately. The appeal was 
promptly attended with the most satisfactory results, and 

1845] PEEL RETURNS 343 

the King of the French, with a countenance radiant with 
smiles, was assuring the whole diplomatic circle that he was 
never less uneasy as to the prospects of Europe, and that 
Lord Palmerston had resumed office with a determination to 
act cordially with France, when, to the astonishment of his 
Majesty, he learnt that Lord John Russell had resigned his 
mission, in consequence of an absurd and really discreditable 
intrigue against Lord Palmerston by a portion of his own 
party, on the plea that his appointment to the Foreign Office 
would endanger our friendly relations with the Tuileries. 

It was not till December 18 that Russell definitely 
undertook the task of forming a Government, and he 
abandoned it on the following day. All who were to be 
his colleagues had agreed to the total repeal of the Corn 
Laws ;^ but Lord Grey ,2 who was to have the Colonial Office, 
refused to join a Ministry in which Palmerston should be 
Foreign Secretary. ' The intrigue,' says Disraeli, ' was 
neither contrived with dexterity nor conducted with 
temper, but it extricated the Whig leader from a false 
position. . . . He endured the mortification of confessing 
to his Sovereign his inability to serve her, and handed 
back with courtesy the poisoned chalice to Sir Robert.'^ 

Peel accepted it eagerly, and set about the task of recon- 
structing his Government. Stanley remained obdurate, 
but Peel was not, like Russell, to be frightened by the loss 
of his Minister for the Colonies. The Duke of Wellington, 
with his curious habit of carrying ideas of military dis- 
cipline into the sphere of constitutional government, 
thought it his duty ' to fall in,' only giving vent to his 
feelings in the characteristic comment : ' Rotten potatoes 
have done it all; they put Peel in his damned fright.'* 
The other Ministers, except Stanley, again followed the 
Duke's lead; and Gladstone^ came back to take Stanley's 

1 So Russell wrote to Cobden. See Morley's Cobdeti, I., p. 345. 

2 The Lord Howick of previous chapters. He had succeeded on the 
death of his father in the course of the present year. 

2 Lord George Beritinck, ch. 2. 

* The Greville Memoirs, under date Jan. 13, 1846. 

& Disraeli, in his Maynooth speech, had described him as ' one who had 
quitted the Cabinet for some reason not given, and might join it again in 
circumstances equally obscure.' In the rearrangement of miuor offices, 
George Smythe became Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. 

344 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

place. At the end of all the tumult it seemed likely that 
the schism would end with Stanley's retirement, and that 
the Government would resume its course hardly, if at all, 
weakened. Peel himself was fully convinced that he 
would carry his party with him in abolishing the Corn 
Laws ; and Disraeli a few years later gave it as his opinion 
that if he had called the part}'^ together, and taken them 
into his confidence, they would again have followed his 
lead.^ But, whether as a result of excessive assurance 
or of a disposition that was naturally autocratic and secre- 
tive, the Minister chose the course of haughty isolation; 
and the outcome was far different. 

The warmest admirers of Sir Robert Peel have never 
attempted to deny that there is much in his conduct 
during this crisis that calls for explanation. Quite apart 
from any question as to the intrinsic merits of the great 
measure which he now proceeded to pass stands the ques- 
tion of the manner in which he precipitated the crisis, and 
of his right to be the principal agent in carrying the 
measure through. Here the judgment of his contem- 
poraries was decisively against him. Melbourne dining 
at Windsor, when the subject was referred to, broke out 
indignantly, regardless of the Queen's feelings: 'Ma'am, 
it's a damned dishonest act!'^ Even Cobden thought it 
was wrong to ask the Protection Parliament to disregard 
its pledges, and years after Peel's death still held that 
his conduct was difficult to defend.^ Peel had once before, 
on the question of Catholic emancipation, broken faith 
with his party; and, instead of feeling that it was undesir- 
able to repeat the experiment, he seems rather to have 
been encouraged by its comparative success to expect an 
equally easy course on the present occasion. While con- 
demning the lack of wisdom and foresight that he had 
shown in his attitude to the Catholic claims, most historians 
have conceded that he had the justification in that matter 
of a real and urgent necessity for his sudden change of 

1 Broughton, VI., p. 228. 2 Greville, Jan. 13, 1846. 

3 Motley's Cobden, I., p. 348. 


front; and, according to the legendary view, he had a 
similar justification in the matter of the Corn Laws. 
Precisely, it is said, as in 1829 he sacrificed consistency and 
character to the public duty of averting revolution, so in 
1846 he sacrificed them again to the great national need 
created by the Irish famine. The legendary view will 
hardly bear examination in the light of the facts. It was 
the potato disease indeed that set the train of events in 
motion, but poor Ireland was afterwards little thought of 
in the matter. ^ No one has ever been able to show that 
the repeal of the Corn Laws did anything to alleviate the 
horrors of the Irish famine, while the injury that it caused 
to permanent Irish interests is obvious and confessed. It 
was soon found, as a matter of fact, that the extent of 
the potato disease had at first been exaggerated, and the 
real crisis in Ireland did not come till the following 
season ; and so completely in the meantime had the 
pretence of an immediate emergency been abandoned, 
that the Act carried by Peel retained substantial duties^ 
on corn for a period of years. 

But on any view of the gravity of the Irish situation 
in the winter of 1845, an Order in Council suspending the 
Corn Laws was all that was called for, and to this even 
Stanley, as we have seen, would have assented. It had 
been the frequent practice to suspend duties in times of 
scarcity, as the Minister himself showed ; and if he had 
been content with this remedy, no charge of breaking 
faith could fairly have been brought against him. Peel 
harped, indeed, on the difficulty of renewing the Corn 
Laws once they were suspended, but this harping only 
suggests the embarrassment of a man who was conscious 

1 Croker, who knew both Ireland and Peel, wrote to Graham under date 
Feb. 21, 1846 : ' Ireland has no more to do with the grand convulsion than 
Kamschatka, and I think facts will show hereafter that the only way that 
Ireland is concerned in the revolution is that the measures taken in Eng- 
land, and for English views and no other, have increased the dangers and 
misery of Ireland ' ( Croker Papers, III. , p. 64) . 

2 Ten shillings the quarter when the price was under 48s., sinking to 
four shillings when the price was above 53s. These duties were subse- 
quently suspended during the crisis of the famine, but their suspension 
only serves to strengthen the argument. 

346 DISRAELI AND FEEL [chap, xi 

that his real object had from the first been to get rid of 
the Corn Laws for ever. ' If we open the ports,' he asked, 
' do you expect us to guarantee that they will ever be 
closed again ? ' As Manners answered in debate, no one 
on the Tory side had looked for such a guarantee. ' Sus- 
pend the Corn Laws, open the ports, and leave it to the 
good sense of the English people to decide whether they 
should be closed again.' ^ All, in fact, that was needed 
to keep the Cabinet and party together was that Peel 
should refrain from an explicit declaration of his intention 
to go out of his way to violate his pledges. 

The truth is, Peel had got entangled in the meshes of 
an economic theory, and was in a state of intellectual 
discomfort and excitement. The real crisis was in his 
own mind rather than in the facts. Peel was a typical 
Englishman of the middle classes, from which he sprang, 
with their practical concrete intellect and a certain scorn 
and incapacity for theoretical principles ; and theory 
had her revenge by mastering him periodically. His 
justification in practice on this occasion has been that the 
English people followed him into the same prison-house 
of economic dogma, and have remained there in tolerable 
contentment ever since. But for anyone who retains his 
freedom of mind moral dogma will seem to have a higher 
validity than economic ; and whether he thinks the repeal 
of the Corn Laws a good thing or a bad, he will find it 
hard to discern any such pressing necessity for their 
repeal at the particular moment chosen as to justify a 
statesman in violating his pledges and breaking up his 

Let it be granted, however, that Peel, whether with 
sufficient warrant or not, was honestly convinced that the 
instant repeal of the Corn Laws was imperatively neces- 
sary, and there is still something in his conduct that 
requires explanation. He himself admitted more than 
once in the House of Commons that he was not the right 
person to propose such a measure, but excused himself 

1 Hansard, Feb. 17, 1846. 

1845] HIS EXCUSES 347 

on the ground that he only undertook the task because 
of the failure of the Whig leader to form an administra- 
tion. On one occasion, waxing warm, he even said that 
to suggest that he had wished to interfere with the 
settlement of the question by Lord John Russell was 
*as foul a calumny as a vindictive spirit ever dictated 
against a public man.'i Disraeli in reply then and 
always pressed the question why, if this were so, he tried 
to induce his own Cabinet to adopt the policy of repeal 
a week before he gave the opportunity to Russell. No 
answer was ever given, and none^ is easily conceivable. 
In spite of Peel's protestations, the conclusion irresistibly 
suggested by the whole transaction is that he was anxious 
from first to last to keep the matter in his own hands. 
If he had shown half the determination to avoid the 
breach of faith involved in his repealing the Corn Laws 
himself that he showed to get the Corn Laws somehow 
repealed, he could have secured both objects. He 
acquiesced far too readily in Russell's failure to form a 
Government. If the Corn Laws were to be repealed, 
Russell was the man clearly designated for the task. By 
his Edinburgh letter he had invited the country to entrust 
it to him ; and in the majority by which the Bill was 
actually carried, if we take the test of the second reading, 
his followers were to Peel's as two to one. The excuse 
which he gave for his desertion of the Queen was wholly 
inadequate,^ and would not have held against a little 

1 Hansard, June 12, 1846. 

2 The answer suggested by Gladstone (Morley, I., p. 286), that the meas- 
ure proposed by Peel at the beginning of December was less sweeping than 
that to which he was eventually led, is devoid of substance. In his 
Cabinet Memorandum of December 2, Peel expressly recommended such a 
modification of the Corn Laws 'as would secure the ultimate and not re- 
mote extinction of protective duties.' 

3 So it seemed to Peel himself. He wrote to Lord Heytesbury (Parker, 
III., p. 289) that Russell had thrown up the task on which he entered for 
no better reason than ' that one intemperate and headstrong man objected 
to another gentleman having one particular office.' It has been urged, 
indeed, that the Whigs could not have carried the Corn Bill through the 
House of Lords ; but Peel himself thought otherwise, as he expressly 
wrote to the Queen (on Dec. 12, 1845 : Parker, III., p. 242), so he cannot 
be given shelter under this plea. In any case, Russell could have met the 
immediate emergency by an order of suspension, and thrown on the 
opposite party the responsibility of refusing the sanction of Parliament. 

348 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

resolution on the part of the retiring Minister. The 
Whigs 1 were, of course, ghid that Peel, in Disraeli's words, 
should have the glory and the odium of settling the 
question ; but Peel himself, it is clear, was more attracted 
by the glory than repelled by the odium. 

Here, indeed, the latent egoism of his character came 
into play. Disraeli's judgment in his letter^ to Manners 
is expressed in harsher terms than he would have used 
at a later date, but it contains a large element of truth. 
That there was no petty or deliberate self-seeking in 
Peel's motives everyone would agree, but to a man of his 
type temptation presents itself in forms more subtle. 
Like many other statesmen with long experience of office, 
he had begun to think, not, perhaps, that he was indis- 
pensable, but that all the great things that had to be done 
could best be done by himself. Ambition combined with 
the fermentation in his mind to lead him astray, and he 
sacrificed his pledges and his party to a supposed urgent 
necessity that had no real existence. He made the higher 
obligation of preserving good faith in political life sub- 
servient to the lower of repealing the Corn Laws, and 
both his character as a man and his reputation as a 
statesman must suffer in consequence. 

Parliament met on January 22. In the House of 
Lords the Duke of Wellington, by a curious manoeuvre, 
deprived Stanley of the opportunity of explaining his 
resignation ; but in the House of Commons the Prime 
Minister made a long statement, of which Disraeli gives 
us a graphic account in his Lord G-eorge Bentinck.^ While 
the House was on the tenters for the explanations of the 
crisis, Peel plunged into a tedious fat cattle speech, 
discoursing at great length on the price of flax and wool, 
salt beef, and domestic lard ; inquiring ' whether employ- 
ment, low prices, and abundance, contributed to the 

iNot all of them, however, believed that they were wise in shirking 
their duty. ' We stayed in,' said Macaulay, ' when we ought to have 
gone out ; and now we stay out when we ought to have gone in ' 
(Greville, Dec. 23, 1846). 

2 See p. 337. « Ch. 3. 


diminution of crime,' and gravely stating that 'he would 
no longer resist the inference that they did — as if any 
human being ever resisted the inference ' ; and then 
closing 'this eulogium of the effect of low prices' with 
a demonstration that all preceding reductions of the tariff 
had greatly increased the prices of the articles affected. 

Some fine judges have recognised in all this only the artifice 
of a consummate master of the House of Commons, lowering 
the tone of an excited assembly by habitual details, and 
almost proving by his accustomed manner of addressing 
them that, after all, he could have done nothing very ex- 
traordinary. When a senate after a long interval and the 
occurrence of startling transactions assembles, if not to 
impeach, at least to denounce, a Minister, and then are gravely 
anointed with domestic lard, and invited to a speculation on 
the price of salt pork, an air of littleness is irresistibly infused 
into the affair from which it seems hopeless to extricate the 

Finally the speaker slid into a long and confused 
narrative of the Cabinet Councils and their consequences ; 
and concluded with a fierce reply to threats of mutiny 
that had been heard from some of his own followers. 

Turning round with great scorn to his former supporters, 
and with an expression of almost malignant haughtiness, 
he exclaimed : ' I see constantly put forth allusions to the 
power of those men to remove me from office.' He should 
therefore define the relation in which he conceived himself 
to stand with respect to party and to his Sovereign. But 
dilating on the latter point with considerable feeling, and full, 
perhaps, of an important subject which he was fast approach- 
ing, he entirely forgot the former and on this occasion far 
more interesting topic. He concluded by a vindication of 
what he held to be true Conservative policy in his best style ; 
earnest without being solemn, and masculine without turgidity. 
Yet the well-considered conclusion contained a somewhat 
portentous confession for a Conservative Minister of England 
— that ' it was no easy task to insure the united action of an 
ancient monarchy, a proud aristocracy, and a reformed House 
of Commons.' 

Peel was followed by Russell with what Disraeli calls 
*the authentic statement of Whig disasters'; and when 

350 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

Russell sat down, in a House tame and dispirited, and 
with the country members unorganised, helpless, and 
dumb, the debate nearly collapsed. 

It seemed that the curtain was about to fall, and certainly 
not to the disadvantage of the Government. In their position 
the first night of the session passed in serenity was compara- 
tively a triumph. With the elements of opposition, however 
considerable, so inert and desponding, the first night might 
give the cue to the country. Perceiving this, a member, 
who, though on the Tory benches, had been for two sessions 
in opposition to the Ministry, ventured to rise and attack 
the INIinister. The opportune in a popular assembly has 
sometimes more success than the weightiest efforts of research 
and reason. The Minister, perhaps too contemptuous of his 
opponents, had not guarded all his approaches. His deprecia- 
tion of those party ties by which he had risen, in an assembly, 
too, in which they are wisely reverenced ; his somewhat 
ostentatious gratitude for the favour of successive Sovereigns ; 
his incautious boast that his Conservative Government had 
discouraged sedition and extinguished agitation, when it 
was universally felt that he was about to legislate on the most 
important of subjects in deference to agitation ; and, above 
all, his significant intimation that an ancient monarchy and 
a proud aristocracy might not be compatible with a reformed 
House of Commons — at least, unless he were Minister — 
offered some materials in the handling of which the least 
adroit could scarcely fail. But it was the long-constrained 
passion of the House that now found a vent far more than the 
sallies of the speaker that changed the frigid silence of this 
senate into excitement and tumult. 

The speaker was, of course, Disraeli himself. He began 
by explaining that, as an early day was to be appointed 
for the discussion of the great question, he would not at 
this moment have intruded on the House but for the 
peculiar tone of the Prime Minister's speech. He admired 
a Minister who said that he held power to give effect to 
his own convictions, and he had no doubt that in the 
present case the convictions were conscientious. But, 
looking to all the circumstances, he must say that the 
Minister, however conscientious, was very unfortunate, 
and that he ought to be the last man in the world to 


turn round and upbraid his party in the tone of menace 
he had adopted. 

Sir, there is a difficulty in finding a parallel to the position 
of the right hon. gentleman in any part of history. The 
only parallel which I can find is an incident in the late 
war in the Levant, which was terminated by the policy of 
the noble lord opposite. I remember when that great struggle 
was taking place, when the existence of the Turkish Empire 
was at stake, the late Sultan, a man of great energy and 
fertile in resources, was determined to fit out an immense 
fleet to maintain his empire. Accordingly a vast armament 
was collected. The crews were picked men, the officers were 
the ablest that could be found, and both officers and men 
were rewarded before they fought. (Much laughter.) There 
never was an armament which left the Dardanelles similarly 
appointed since the days of Solyman the Great. The Sultan 
personally witnessed the departure of the fleet ; all the muftis 
prayed for the expedition, as all the muftis here prayed for 
the success of the last general election. Away went the fleet, 
but what was the Sultan's consternation when the Lord High 
Admiral steered at once into the enemy's port. (Loud laughter 
and cheers.) Now, sir, the Lord High Admiral on that occasion 
was very much misrepresented. He, too, was called a traitor, 
and he, too, vindicated himself. 'True it is,' said he, 'I did 
place myself at the head of this valiant armada; true it is 
that my Sovereign embraced me ; true it is that all the muftis 
in the empire offered up prayers for the expedition ; but I 
have an objection to war. I see no use in prolonging the 
struggle, and the only reason I had for accepting the command 
was that I might terminate the contest by betraying my 
master.' (Tremendous Tory cheering.) 

It was all very well for the right hon. gentleman to 
say: ' I am the First Minister ' — lie might as well, by-the- 
by, adopt the phraseology of Walpole, and call himself 
the sole Minister, for his speech was rich in egoistic 
rhetoric; it was all very well for him to come forward and 
say: ' My sentiments are magnanimous, my aim is heroic, 
and, appealing to posterity, I care neither for your cheers 
nor your taunts ;' but how did he acquire his position, 
how did he obtain power to turn round on his supporters 
and treat them with contempt ? 

352 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

Well do we remember on this side of the House — perhaps 
almost with a blush — well do we remember the efforts which 
we made to raise him to the bench on which he now sits. 
Who does not remember the ' sacred cause of protection ' — 
the cause for which Sovereigns were thwarted, Parliaments 
dissolved, and a nation taken in ? Delightful indeed was 
it to have the right hon. gentleman entering into all his 
confidential details when, to use his courtly language, he 
'■ called ' upon his Sovereign. Sir, he called on his Sovereign, 
but would his Sovereign have called on the right hon. baronet, 
if, in 1841, he had not placed himself, as he said, at the head 
of the gentlemen of England ? (loud Ministerial cheers) — 
that well-known position, to be preferred to the confidence of 
Sovereigns and of courts. It is all very well for the right 
hon. baronet to take this high-flying course ; but I think 
myself — I say it without any wish to achieve a party triumph, 
for I believe I belong to a party which can triumph no more ; 
for we have nothing left on our side except the constituencies 
which we have not betrayed (loud cheering) ; but I do say 
that my idea of a great statesman is of one who represents 
a great idea — an idea which may lead him to power, an idea 
with which he may connect himself, an idea which he may 
develop, an idea which he may and can impress on the mind 
and conscience of a nation. That, sir, is my notion of what 
makes a man a great statesman. I do not care whether he 
be a manufacturer or a manufacturer's son. That is a grand 
— that is indeed an heroic — position. But I care not what 
may be the position of a man who never originates an idea — 
a watcher of the atmosphere, a man who, as he says, takes 
his observations, and when he finds the wind in a certain 
quarter trims to suit it. Such a person may be a powerful 
Minister, but he is no more a great statesman than the man 
who gets up behind a carriage is a great whip. (Tremendous 
cheering and laughter.) Certainly both are disciples of 
progress. Perhaps both may get a good place. (More 
laughter.) But how far the original momentum is indebted to 
their powers, and how far their guiding prudence applies the 
lash or regulates the reins, it is not necessary for me to 

The right hon. gentleman, giving it as his own recom- 
mendation that he had served four Sovereigns, asked them 
to follow him. Follow him ! Who was to follow him, 
or why was anybody to follow him, or where was any- 
body to follow him to ? What did he mean to do — this 
great statesman who talked with a sneer of an ancient 


monarchy and a proud aristocracy, and told them they 
were but drags on the wheel, and he the only driver? 
He told them he was still a Conservative, for had not, 
he asked, his Government put down agitation? 

Sir, I confess when I heard this, that great as nndoubteuiy 
are the powers of Parliamentary face of the right hon. gentle- 
man (loud laughter) — I confess, sir, that I was thunderstruck. 
I could forget the agitated councils called without a cause 
and dismissed without a consequence, the candid explanation 
of the situation of his Cabinet — his admission that the only 
man in that body who dared to speak the truth differed from 
him ; the almost humble confession that he had been misled 
in his information ; that his Viceroy, who, being a diyjlomatist, 
communicated his principal information in a postscript, had 
caused such false impressions in the Cabinet that the Secre- 
tary of State was obliged to send a courier for an explanation — 
all these frank details I could afford to admire in one who 
has taken up so lofty a position as the right hon. baronet 
says he has taken, and who can afford to speak the truth. 
But, really, when he told us that his Conservative adminis- 
tration had put down agitation, when he said this in the face 
of the hon. member for Stockport [Cobden], in the face of the 
hon. member for Durham [Bright] — then, sir, I confess that 
the right hon. baronet did manage to achieve the first great 
quality of oratory, that he did succeed in making an impres- 
sion on his audience ! Put down agitation ! Will he rise 
and deny that he is legislating or about to legislate with direct 
reference to agitation ? (Loud cheers.) What other excuses 
has he, for even his mouldy potatoes have failed him, even the 
reports of his vagrant professors have failed him. 

Sir, I remember, in the midst of a great revolution, when 
all the principles of our social system were called into question, 
when we heard much of the inconvenience of ancient mon- 
archies and proud aristocracies, when it was necessary to 
invent some means, to devise some expedient, to manage 
reformed constituencies — well do I remember that great 
mind which was to control divided counsels, to guide a 
distracted people, delivering itself of that oracle which rang 
so solemnly over the land, ' Register, register, register.' 
(Loud cheers.) Register, some thought, to save the Corn 
Laws, some to save the monarchy, some to save the Church. 
(Loud cheers.) We went on registering, and the right hon. 
gentleman went on making protection speeches — a great 
orator before a green table, beating a red box. (Laughter.) 
Then he showed us the sovereign passion — we were to register 

VOL. II — 2 a 

354 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

to make him a Minister. The statesman who opposed 
Catholic Emancipation against arguments as cogent as any 
which the gentlemen of the League can now offer, in spite 
of political expediency a thousand times more urgent than 
that which now besets them ; always ready with his arguments 
and amendments ; always ready with his fallacies, ten thousand 
times exploded ; always ready with his Virgilian quotations to 
command a cheer — the moment that an hon. and learned 
gentleman was returned for the county of Clare, then imme- 
diately we saw this right hon. gentleman not ashamed to recall 
his arguments, not ashamed to confess that he was convinced, 
but telling us, on the contrary, he should be ashamed if he had 
not the courage to come forward and propose a resolution 
exactly contrary to his previous policy. And so is it always 
with the right hon. gentleman. Nursed in the House of 
Commons, entertaining no idea but that of Parliamentary 
success, if you wish to touch him to the quick, you must 
touch him on the state of the poll. (Cheers and laughter.) 

It was really too much for a Minister with such a 
career to talk to them in high-pitched language about his 
lofty spirit, about posterity and the love of fame. 

What an advantage to a country to be governed by a Minister 
who thinks only of posterity ! The right hon. gentleman has 
before assured us that he and his colleagues are only thinking 
of the future. Who can doubt it? Look at them. Throw 
your eyes over the Treasury bench. See stamped on every 
ingenuous front ' the last infirmity of noble mind.' They are 
all of them, as Spenser says, ' imps of fame.' They are just 
the men in the House you would fix upon as thinking only 
of posterity. The only thing is, when one looks at them, 
seeing of what they are composed, one is hardly certain 
whether ' the future ' of which they are thinking is indeed pos- 
terity or only the coming quarter-day. (Cheers and laughter.) 
I should like to know what posterity may think of a Cabinet 
which resigns office because it cannot support a policy, and 
accepts ofiice for the same reason. (Loud cheers.) In the 
history of England, in the history of parties, I defy any man, 
I defy even the right hon. member for Edinburgh [Macaulay], 
with his disciplined memory and cultivated mind — I defy 
any man learned in British history to adduce me a case 
parallel to this. 

And what is to be the result ? If ' coming events cast their 
shadows before,' I suppose no gentleman in a sane state of 
mind can doubt it. We resisted the moderate proposal of 

1846] IMPS OF FAME 355 

the Whigs. "We rejected it, confiding in the experience of 
that practised individual — the gentleman who has served 
four Sovereigns. (Loud laughter.) We were blind enough to 
believe that a gentleman of such great ability, of such long 
experience, who had had such immense advantages, could not 
make very gross and palpable blunders. We accepted him 
for a leader to accomplish the triumph of protection, and now 
we are to attend the catastrophe of protection. (Loud laughter.) 
Of course the Whigs will be the chief mourners. (Loud laughter.) 
They cannot but weep for their innocent, although it was an 
abortion (loud cheers and laughter) ; but ours was a line 
child. Who can forget how its nurse dandled it, fondled 
it ? (Loud laughter.) What a charming babe ! Delicious little 
thing ! so thriving ! (Loud laughter.) Did you ever see such 
a beauty for its years ? This was the tone, the innocent 
prattle ; and then the nurse, in a fit of patriotic frenzy, dashes 
its brains out (loud laughter), and comes down to give master 
and mistress an account of this terrible murder. The nurse, 
too, a person of a very orderly demeanour, not given to 
drink, and never showing any emotion, except of late, when 
kicking against protection. 

Away with this talk about going down to Windsor and 
finding that Lord John this or Lord William that could not 
form a Ministry, and saying : ' Then I must form one, and 
bring all my colleagues to support measures of which they 
do not approve.' Was that the constitution that governed 
England ? If so, the sooner they could get rid of such a 
constitution, the better. He could understand an absolute 
Sovereign in a country of high civilisation governing 
through a council of state, selected by his arbitrary but 
intelligent will from the ablest men of the country ; 
but the House of Commons still formed a part of the 
constitution, though if the principles they had just 
heard from the Prime Minister were once admitted, it 
must soon cease to count. Six hundred men met together 
without the sympathy of great ideas, to wield all the 
power of a country, with all the patronage at the 
command of one man appointed by the Sovereign to 
direct them as he willed — who could doubt what the 
result would be ? 

356 DISRAELI AND PEEL [chap, xi 

If yoii had a daring, dashing Minister, a Danby or a Walpole, 
who tells you frankly, 'I am corrupt, and I wish you to be 
corrupt also,' we might guard against this ; but what I cannot 
endure is to hear a man come down and say : ' I will rule 
without respect to party, though I rose by party ; and I care 
not for your judgment, for I look to posterity.' Sir, very 
few people reach posterity. And who amongst us may arrive 
at that destination I presume not to vaticinate. Posterity 
is a most limited assembly. Those gentlemen who reach 
posterity are not much more numerous than the planets. 
But one thing is quite evident, that whilst we are appealing 
to posterity — while we are admitting the principles of relaxed 
commerce — there is extreme danger of our admitting the 
principles of relaxed politics. I advise, therefore, that we 
all — whatever may be our opinions about free trade — oppose 
the introduction of free politics. Let men stand by the 
principle by which they rise, right or wrong. I make no 
exception. If they be in the wrong, they must retire to that 
shade of private life with which our present rulers have often 
threatened us. . . . It is not a legitimate trial of the principles 
of free trade against the principle of protection if a Parlia- 
ment, the majority of which are elected to support protection, 
be gained over to free trade by the arts of the very individual 
whom they were elected to support in an opposite career. 
It is not fair to the people of England. 

The Opposition would err if they admitted the principle 
that they were to support any man who supported their 
opinions. A Minister in the position of the right hon. 
gentleman was not the Minister who ought to abrogate 
the Corn Laws. 

Whatever may be the fate of Government : whether we are 
to have a Whig administration or a Conservative; whether 
the noble lord or the right hon. gentleman is to wield the 
sceptre of the state — whatever, I say, may be the fate of 
Cabinets (and they are transitory and transient things, things 
which may not survive the career of many men in this House), 
on Parliament as an institution, and still a popular institu- 
tion in this country, is dependent, and not upon the Govern- 
ment, the consideration of the vast majority of the members 
of this House. Do not, then, because you see a great per- 
sonage giving up his opinions — do not cheer him on, do not 
give so ready a reward to political tergiversation. Above all, 
maintain the line of demarcation between parties, for it is 
only by maintaining the independence of party that you 


cau maintain the integrity of public men, and the power and 
influence of Parliament itself. 

The cheers at the close lasted for several minutes, and 
the effect of the speech did not end when the cheers died 
away. It helped greatly to foster the rising spirit of 
revolt among the country members, and preparations 
were at once begun for organising resistance. Disraeli's 
bold example of rebellion had told at last, and his warfare 
against the Government was no longer to be solitary. 


The Overthrow of Peel 


The preparations for resistance were arrested for a 
moment by a rumour launched by the Duke of Welling- 
ton, that the Government meant to offer the agricultural 
interest such countervailing advantages as would com- 
pletely reconcile it to the modification of the Corn Laws. 
As the actual proposals were to be explained to the House 
of Commons in a few days, it was decided to wait for 
details. Peel's speech unfolding his plan is described by 
Disraeli as eminently characteristic. 

This remarkable man, who in private life was constrained 
and often awkward, who could never address a public meet- 
ing or make an after-dinner speech without being ill at ease, 
and generally saying something stilted or even a little ridicu- 
lous, in the senate was the readiest, easiest, most flexible 
and adroit of men. He played upon the House of Commons 
as on an old fiddle. And to-night the manner in which he 
proceeded to deal with the duties on candles and soap, while 
all were thinking of the duties on something else ; the bland 
and conciliatory air with which he announced a reduction 
of the impost on boot-fronts and shoe leather; the intrepid 
plausibility with which he entered into a dissertation on the 
duties of foreign brandy and foreign sugar; while visions of 
deserted villages and reduced rentals were torturing his 
neighbours, were all characteristic of his command over 
himself and those whom he addressed.^ 

Eventually the House learnt that there was to be a 
total repeal of the Corn Laws, though three years were 

^ Lord George Bentinck, ch. 4. 


to elapse before the ports were to be really open. The 
measures of compensation, of which so much had been 
heard, turned out to be trivial readjustments of expense 
between the counties and the national exchequer ; and 
as far as Ireland was concerned — ' and " if there were 
any part of the United Kingdom which was to suffer by 
the withdrawal of protection," the Minister " had always 
felt it would be Ireland " ' — a remission of local taxation 
similar in amount and character. ' No degree of rhetori- 
cal skill could invest with any semblance of substance 
these shadowy schemes of compensation.' A feeling of 
blank disappointment ran along the Conservative benches ; 
indignation resumed its sway ; and the Tory magnates 
and county members at once resumed their formidable 
enterprise of creating a third party. 

The leading spirit among them was Lord George 
Bentinck, second son of the Duke of Portland, and a 
man better known for his prowess in the hunting-field, 
and his devotion to the turf, where he reigned as 'lord 
paramount,' than for his activity as a politician. He 
had, to use his own expression, 'sat in eight Parliaments 
without having taken part in any great debate.' In his 
youth he had been private secretary to Canning, who 
was his uncle by marriage ; and following the friends of 
Canning into the Whig camp, he had supported the Reform 
Bill, but had subsequently seceded from the Whigs with 
Stanley. He had been trained as a soldier, and, apart 
from his lack of serious political education and experi- 
ence, he suffered from a certain rigidity of character 
that became the soldier better than the politician. But 
he was now in the prime of life, and, in addition to a noble 
presence and his rank and social standing, he had many 
of the qualities of which leaders are made — a vehement 
and imperious spirit, unflinching courage, a mind of great 
native vigour directed by a will that never knew sub- 
mission, and the reputation for unbending rectituds 
that wins the confidence of men. Of frank and severely 
truthful nature himself, he was fiercely intolerant oi 

360 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xi 

anything like deception ; and it was a sense of betrayal 
rather than any motive drawn from selfish or class 
interests that stirred him to unwonted exertions on the 
present occasion. He had trusted Peel implicitly, and, 
as he afterwards confessed, when Disraeli, in the session 
of 1845, 'predicted and denounced the impending 
defection of the Minister, there was no member of the 
Conservative party who more violently condemned the 
unfounded attack, or more readily impugned the motions 
of the assailant.'^ On the eve of the meeting of Parlia- 
ment he wrote to Lord Stanley : ' I agree with Gladstone 
(in 1843), and think that to unsettle the Corn Law of 
1842 " would be dishonourable to Parliament as well 
as to the Government," and, therefore, if anything is 
said about Corn Laws in the Queen's speech, if no better 
man can be found, I mean to move an amendment.' 
* I keep horses in three counties,' he said to a political 
opponent, ' and they tell me that I shall save fifteen 
hundred a year by free trade. I don't care for that ; 
what I cannot bear is being sold.' His activity in 
organising the third party at once led to the suggestion 
that he should accept the position of leader ; but he shook 
his head ' with an air of proud humility that was natural 
to him,' and said : ' I think we have had enough of 
leaders ; I shall remain the last of the rank and file.' 

Such was the man with whom Disraeli now found 
himself in the closest relations. When the Session began 
the two were not, it would seem, even acquainted with 
each other ; but a common political purpose soon brought 
them together, and in no long time they were fast friends 
as well as allies. Bentinck's social position made him 
the better fitted for playing ostensibly the first part in 
the control of the new movement ; but Disraeli showed 
his usual power of winning the confidence of those with 
whom he was brought into close contact, and was soon 
established as Bentinck's chief counsellor and lieutenant. 
With his commanding will and vehement character, 
1 Lord Oeorge Bentinck, ch. 2. 

Lord Geo. Bentinck 
From an engraving by Belli after Lane 


Bentinck was not the man to be the mere puppet he is 
sometimes represented as having been ; but Disraeli, 
we may believe, with his greater knowledge and ex- 
perience, his patient tact in the management of men, 
his remarkable freedom from jealousy and his power of 
self-suppression, was able throughout to guide his friend 
much as he desired. At all events, the combination 
worked with great smoothness, and Bentinck, who 
quarrelled with many, seems never, to the day of his 
death, to have had even a moment of angry difference 
with Disraeli. 

The new party, from the nature of the case, was an 
army without officers, and the first business was to 
organise a Parliamentary staff and make preparations 
for a Parliamentary campaign. The motion for going 
into committee on the Minister's proposals was down for 
February 9, and the Government no doubt hoped that 
the occasion would pass with nothing worse than one of 
Disraeli's now customary ebullitions. But when the 
appointed day came, an amendment was moved from the 
Protectionist benches that the House should go into 
committee that day six months, and the lately forlorn 
party showed unexpected powers of sustaining the debate. 
New speakers were brought forward, and those who had 
already ventured were encouraged to try again. At the 
end of the fifth night the Prime Minister rose and made a 
speech to divide on ; but no division came. Disraeli 
spoke on the eighth night, and it was not till the twelfth 
that, after lasting three full Parliamentary weeks, the 
debate came to an end. It was wound up hj Bentinck 
in a speech of great length, packed with detail, and 
delivered, as Disraeli says, in a style of 'dignified 
diffidence.' When the division was called, the West 
India and shipping interests deserted the land and sup- 
ported the Minister ; but even so the Protectionist 
amendment was only defeated by a majority of 97 in 
a House of 581. No more than 112 of their usual sup- 
porters voted with the Government, while 212 voted 

362 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xu 

against them. Peel, in fact, had lost control of the 
Conservative party, and the knell of his Ministry was 

Disraeli's speech was long and in an entirely different 
vein from the speech on the Address and the philippics 
of the previous session. Pledging himself to meet the 
question on its merits, he first lodged a protest against 
the Prime Minister's appeal from party to public opinion. 
Party, said Disraeli, was public opinion embodied, and his 
quarrel with the Prime Minister was not that he had 
deferred too much to public opinion, but that he had 
outraged it by preventing its legitimate action. The 
right hon. gentleman had said that their business was 
not to discuss party, but to meet an emergency and to 
construct a system. That was where he went wrong in 
his very first step : a system should be permanent, an 
emergency was temporary. With regard to the emergency, 
he and his friends were prepared to do for Ireland every- 
thing that human judgment could devise ; but they 
could not understand the Prime Minister's position. 
He was prepared to open the ports, and had shown by 
a rapid review of economic policy that they had often 
been opened, and beneficially opened. There was no 
difficulty about that ; the real difficulty was that he was 
not prepared to close them again. He had resolved, in 
fact, from the first that the existing system of corn and 
provision laws should cease — as was shown, indeed, 
by his proposing his present measures in Council, and 
insisting on their adoption before the idea could have 
been conceived by any other human being. 

As we have seen more than once, Cobden was always 
certain that, if we abandoned protection, other countries 
would speedily follow our example. Peel could never 
make up his mind whether this was probable or not, or 
even whether it was necessary to the success of his 
measure. In his last speech he had argued that they 
had been relaxing protection for more than thirty years, 
and the country was now more flourishing than ever. 


It flourishes, retorted Disraeli, because you have given 
to its trade a just, a judicious, and a moderate protec- 

The whole speech only proved the advantage of the principle 
of a moderate protection (' Oh ! '). I am sorry, sir, to have 
excited that groan from a free trader in distress. (Great 
laughter.) I want to ask the right hon. gentleman a very 
important question : Does he believe that he can fight hostile 
tariffs with free imports ? That is the point (' Hear, hear ! '). 
' Hear, hear ! ' from the disciples of the school of Manchester ! ^ 
A most consistent cheer ! They have always maintained they 
can ; and if their principles are right, as they believe they are 
— as I believe they are not — I can easily understand that, their 
premises being assumed, they may arrive at that conclusion. 
They believe they can fight hostile tariffs with free imports, 
and they tell us very justly : ' Let us take care of our imports, 
and everything else will take care of itself.' But is that the 
conviction of the right hon. gentleman? We want to know 
that, because, if that be his conviction, why all these elegies 
over defunct diplomatic negotiations to preserve commercial 
treaties ? If he believes that we can meet hostile tariifs with 
free imports, he need not trouble himself about commercial 
treaties. But if the right hon. gentleman does not believe 
that, if he has not the conviction of the school of Manchester, 
then he is not justified in offering this measure. 

They were told that great things would follow from 
a good example — that the Americans were on the point 
of changing their tariff, that Prussia was shaken, that 
the French were votaries of free trade. Let him offer 
them some facts. Did the House understand the power 
of the manufacturing interest — the protected interest 
in America ? In 1840 there were 800,000 manufacturing 
operatives in the United States, and since 1840 under 
their tariff there had been the greatest development of 
manufacturing industry known in the history of the 
country. When he was told that Prussia was shaken, 
he could only say that he had just been reading a book 
about Prussia, published within the month, from which 

1 According to Cobden himself (in Elliot's Life of Goschen, I., p. 75), the 
phrase ' the Manchester school,' which passed into general use as a title for 
his party, was invented by Disraeli ; and this was not improbably the first 
occasion when it was heard. 

3Gi THE OVERTHRO^Y OF PEEL [chap, xii 

he found that that country was most obstinately deter- 
mined in its resistance to free trade, and till he was given 
a more detailed account of the shaking he must remain 
sceptical. With regard to France, he could speak with 
some knowledge of her public men, and with the exception 
of an occasional individual who attempted to humour 
an English Minister he did not believe that there was a 
single leading statesman in France who was not in favour 
of a high restrictive policy. There was only one way of 
gaining any relaxation of the French mercantile system, 
and that was by diplomacy ; but they now proposed to 
open their ports without condition, and France had no 
longer an object to negotiate for. It all came to this, that 
if the right hon. baronet was not prepared to meet hostile 
tariffs with free imports he had no ground to stand on. 

On other aspects of their measure Peel and his colleagues 
were no less undecided, and Disraeli was not slow to note 
their inconsistencies. The Secretary at War,i he said, 
who had addressed the House as a martyr when he was 
only a convert, had asserted that the fallacy of cheap 
bread was now discarded by all parties ; the Secretary of 
State ^ on the following night had declared that unless the 
question before the House involved a cheaper and more 
abundant supply of food to the people there was no 
question before them. He was not surprised that there 
should be such distraction in their councils when there 
was such discord in their speeches. The Secretary at 
War asked what they feared from free imports — where 
were they to come from ? He had investigated the 
subject as well as he could, and he had not the slightest 
doubt that when this system was established they could 
get from the corn-growing countries any quantity of 
corn they liked. It was idle to say that capital and 
railways were wanting ; both would be supplied. There 
was no fallacy so great as to suppose that when there 
was an established market here prices would rise in 
proportion to the demand. The examples of tea and 

1 Sidney Herbert. 2 Graham. 

1846] THE VIA MEDIA 365 

cotton showed prices continually falling as the demand 
increased. The Secretary at War asked them again, 
Why all this agitation about a mere question of the repeal 
of a duty on one article of imports ? He forgot that last 
year it was a social revolution ; and even now they were 
told by the consistent Secretary of State that if they 
refused to pass this measure they would bring upon 
England anarchy, misery, and ruin. 

I have observed that ever since the right hon. baronet 
[Graham] has been a Minister of a Conservative Cabinet he has 
annually brought forward a very extensive measure, which has 
as regularly produced great alarm and excited great odium in 
the country ; and that the right hon. gentleman, alarmed at his 
own proceedings, has ended by withdrawing the measure. 
Bold in opposition, not too scrupulous, it seems somewhat 
extraordinary that the responsibilities of office should bring 
to him, not prudence, but panic. (Renewed cheers and 
laughter.) And these are the Ministers who turn round and 
say : ' You are alarmed at our measure, but you will not suffer 
at all except from your own panic' Why, they are the children 
of panic, they are an alarmist Cabinet. (Loud cheers.) I 
know not from what cause, but fright is stamped on their 
very forehead — whether it arises from a deficiency of food in 
Ireland or a superabundance of suffrages in Lancashire.^ 

He had now something to say on the question of 
protection, and he began by showing historically that 
England in her commercial arrangements had generally 
taken the middle course. Protection in England had 
never been protection to every branch of native industry. 
We had once had a commercial system founded on 
principle, definite in its details, and, in a certain sense, 
beneficial in practice — the colonial system. At an earlier 
date there had been a very liberal system of commerce 
with the Continent ; but in the middle of the eighteenth 
century our foreign trade had been sacrificed to the 
upholding of our colonial system. The range of our 
transactions had thereby been curtailed ; but our mer- 
chants were compensated by more secure markets and 

1 In allusion to a by-election that had been lost by the Government. 

366 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

larger profits. When we lost our principal colonies, 
Mr. Pitt saw that it was necessary to establish a new 
system — a large system of commercial intercourse on the 
principle of reciprocal advantage. This in turn was 
upset by the revolutionary war; but the moment the 
war was over they had gone back to the Pitt system, 
under the guidance of Lord Liverpool, Mr. Huskisson, 
and at a later date the present Prime Minister. He 
himself had given a conscientious vote for the Prime 
Minister's tariff as embodying a system of moderate and 
judicious protection in complete harmony with what he 
thought were their true commercial principles. If they 
sought examples of a different policy, they would see in 
Spain the effects of absolute prohibition, and in Turkey 
the effects of absolute free trade. In the one case un- 
bridled competition had been as pernicious as excessive 
protection in the other. 

The Prime Minister had said there was a prima facie 
case in favour of free trade. He never cared much about 
prima facie cases ; it would be just as easy for him to 
say that there was a prima facie case in favour of protec- 
tion, for to protect the industry of our fellow-subjects was 
prima facie desirable. He could find in the speeches of 
the gentlemen of the League no single reasonable objection 
to the principle involved. Their arguments had per- 
petually changed ; they began by promising cheap bread 
to the labourer, and had ended by promising high rents to 
the landlord. They said that protection aimed at two 
objects — to feed the people and to employ the people — 
and that it had failed in both. Had it failed ? Fifty 
years ago we could not feed the people ; the population 
had since doubled, and in average years we could now 
feed them, and at a lower rate of cost. Nowhere in the 
world was there any great breadth of land with an 
agriculture to be compared to that of Great Britain. It 
was only natural that it should be so, for the land of 
England received the tribute of the world. There was 
not an Englishman in any of our colonies, not a resident 


at the Court of any Indian Prince, whose great ambition 
was not to return, purchase land, and become a justice 
of the peace or deputy-lieutenant. ' Riding on elephants, 
surrounded by slaves, he is always dreaming of quarter- 
sessions.' Our territorial constitution, which had con- 
ferred on the possession of laud an honour peculiar to 
itself, would always secure the investment of capital in 
the soil of England. 

But look, said the gentlemen of the League, at the 
condition of the peasantry: has protection provided them 
with sufficient employment ? It was not there alone 
that he had tried to call attention to the condition of the 
peasantry ; but when they came with their cool assump- 
tions and daring charges, he asked what was the condi- 
tion of the peasantry before the protective system was 
instituted ? Worse even than at present. He might 
just as well take them to Stockport or Manchester, show 
them human suffering and human degradation, and 
say. Competition has done this; but he knew that these 
were exceptional cases, and that the industry of Lancashire 
was a noble and well-ordered industry, and he could not 
condescend to such vile arts of faction. In the same way, 
if protection had given the peasant of Wiltshire seven 
shillings a week, it had equally given the peasant of 
Lincolnshire an ample remuneration. He found the people 
employed, though not so well as he could wish ; their 
condition in many instances bad, but superior generally 
to that of the other nations of Europe ; and he could not 
assent to the bold assumption that they would improve 
their condition by introducing foreign labour into com- 
petition with theirs, or that they would elevate their 
character by diminishing their wages. 

He had endeavoured not to make a mere Corn Law 
speech. He had never rested his defence of the Corn 
Laws on the burdens to which the land was subject. 
There were heavy burdens on the land, but the land had 
great honours, and he who had great honours must also 
have great burdens. He wished his friends to bear in 

368 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

mind that their cause must be sustained by principles 
of high policy, and he would venture feebly and slightly 
to indicate those principles. In every country, he said, 
it was the first interest of the state to maintain a balance 
between the two great branches of national industry; 
that was a principle which had been recognised by all 
great Ministers for the last two hundred years. But he 
went farther, and said that in England there were special 
reasons why they should not only maintain the balance, 
but give a preponderance — he did not say a predominance, 
which was not the proper word — to the agricultural 
branch ; and the reason was that in England they had a 
territorial constitution. 

You have thrown upon the land the revenues of the Church, 
the administration of justice, and the estate of the poor; 
and you value that territorial constitution, not as serving to 
gratify the pride or pamper the luxury of the proprietors of 
the land, but becavise in that constitution you, and those 
whom you have succeeded, have found the only security for 
self-government; and, more than that, the only barrier to 
that system of centralisation which has taken root and 
enslaved the energies of surrounding nations. (Great cheering.) 
That is why I have ever supported, and that is why I will 
still support, this principle of preponderance. My con- 
stituents are not landlords ; they are not aristocrats ; they 
are not great capitalists ; they are, in fact, the children of 
industry — born only to employment ; but they believe not 
only that their material interests are involved in a system 
which favours native industry, by insuring at the same time 
real competition, but also that their social and political 
interests are involved in a system under which their rights 
and liberties have been guaranteed ; and I agree with them. 
I know these are old arguments ; but I know also that they 
are strong, and that it is necessary they should not be for- 
gotten. (Continued cheering.) 

I know we are told, and by one [Cobden] who on this 
subject should be the highest authority, that we shall derive 
from this great struggle not merely the repeal of the Corn Laws, 
but the transfer of power from one class to another — to one 
distinguished for its intelligence and wealth, the manufacturers 
of England. My conscience assures me that I have not been 
slow in doing justice to the intelligence of that class ; I do not 
envy them their wide and deserved prosperity, but I must 


confess my deep mortification that in an age of political 
regeneration, when all social evils are ascribed to the opera- 
tion of class interests, it should be suggested that we are to 
be rescued from the alleged power of one class only to sink 
under the avowed douiiniou of another. I for one, if this is 
to be the end of all our struggles — if this is to be the great 
result of this enlightened age — I for one protest against the 
ignominious catastrophe. I believe that the monarchy of 
England, its sovereignty mitigated by the power of the 
established estates of the realm, has its root in the hearts of 
the people, and is capable of securing the happiness of the 
people and the power of the state. If this be a worn-out 
dream — if indeed there is to be a change — I for one, anxious 
as I am to maintain the present polity of this country, ready 
to make as many sacrifices as any man for that object — if 
there is to be this great change, I for one hope that the founda- 
tions of it may be deep, the scheme comprehensive, and that, 
instead of falling under such a thraldom, under the thraldom 
of capital, under the thraldom of those who, while they 
boast of their intelligence, are more proud of their wealth 
— if we must find new forces to maintain the ancient throne 
and immemorial monarchy of England, I for one hope we 
may find that novel power in the invigorating energies of 
an educated and enfranchised people. (Loud and long- 
continued cheers.)^ 

Having been content with this comparatively sedate 
speech on the great question, Disraeli a few days later 
delighted the House by a return to his more characteristic 
style. Roebuck, the Radical member for Bath, had 
made enemies in all parties by indulging a bitter tongue, 
and a personal wrangle of which Ferrand, as usual, was 
the centre, but in which Roebuck was involved, gave 
Disraeli an opportunity of reading him a lesson. In a 
rather inflated speech, Roebuck had laid stress on the 
resolution against Ferrand passed in a previous session. 
Disraeli followed, and remarked that a more ridiculous 
resolution never had been passed, and that he believed 
the Prime Minister, who had a natural taste for humour, 
was keenly sensible of the fact. Neither he nor the Home 
Secretary had originated the proceedings ; they originated 

1 Hansard, Feb. 20, 1846; and The Times and Morning Post, Feb. 21, 

VOL. II 2 B 

370 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

in the quarter where the most disagreeable proceedings 
naturally originated — with the member for Bath, who 
now dilated upon them with all the dramatic effect worthy 
of a minor theatre. ' Sir,' the speaker added with im- 
perturbable gravity, ' I have not had any resolution passed 
yet against me, and if my hon. friend had taken my 
advice never to abuse anybody (shouts of laughter), but 
rather to resort to such language as our English tongue 
and the forms of the House permit for the expression of 
opinion, he would never have been in the position in 
which that resolution, I think, unjustly placed him.' 
The member for Bath himself was in the habit of in- 
fringing the rules of the House by imputing motives most 
corrupt, most sinister, and most ungentlemanlike. 

Some of my hon. friends have noticed it ; I never have. I 
always felt that in this world you must bear a good deal 
(great laughter), and that even in this indulgent though 
dignified assembly, where we endeavour, as far as jjossible, 
to carry on public affairs without any unnecessary acerbity — 
still, we must occasionally submit to some things which the 
rules of this House do not permit. I could, no doubt, easily 
have vindicated my character ; but that would only have 
made the hon. member for Bath speak once or twice more, 
and, really, I have never any wish to hear him. (Loud cheers 
and laughter.) I have had the most corrupt motives imputed 
to rae. But I know how true it is that a tree must produce 
its fruit — that a crab tree will bring forth crab apples (loud 
laughter), and that a man of meagre and acid mind, who 
writes a pamphlet or makes a speech, must make a meagre 
and acid pamphlet or a poor and sour speech. (Shouts of 
laughter.) Let things, then, take their course. But, for the 
member for Bath — extraordinary purist as he is — I think that 
he, though now assuming the functions of general instructor, 
as formerly of general accuser, would do well to profit by his 
own precepts, and eschew his melodramatic malignity and 
Sadler's Wells sort of sarcasm. (Loud and general laughter 
and cheering.)^ 

1 This speech, which was delivered on the night of the Corn Law division 
before the resumption of the chief debate, is also notable as having led to 
the public reconciliation between Cobden and Peel. Bright had accused 
Ferrand of having charged the League with abetting assassination, and had 
talked of a prosecution. Disraeli recalled the fact that a similar charge 
had been made in the House of Commons itself ' by the very distinguished 


Roebuck sought his revenge in season and out of season 
for the remainder of the session. On one occasion he 
went out of his way to recall the old affair of Disraeli's 
appearing at Wycombe with Hume and O'Connell as 
his sponsors. To this ' arranged impromptu ' Disraeli 
replied as usual, that he had never changed his opinions. 

I am not in a condition to have had hereditary opinions 
carved out for me, and all my opinions, therefore, have been 
the result of reading and thought. I never was a follower of 
either of the two great aristocratic parties in this country. 
My sympathies and feelings have always been with the people 
from whom I spring ; and when obliged as a member of this 
House to join a party, I joined that party with which I believe 
the people sympathise. I continue to hold substantially the 
same opinions as I have always professed ; and when the hon. 
member talks of my going ' into his camp,' I never heard that 
he had a camp. How the solitary sentry talks of his garrison ! 
He a leader of the people ! In my opinion there is no greater 
opponent of real democra(!y than a modern Liberal ; and as 
to popular principles, I believe they are never more in danger 
than when they are professed by political economists. Three 
months of solitude for an attack on the consistency of my 
political opinions ! never was any senator struck with a 
rhetorical paralysis more remarkable; never was anything 
more malignant, and certainly never was anything more 

After the defeat of the protectionist amendment on 
the principle of the new proposals, Disraeli and Bentinck 
made it their object to delay the Government measures 
so that they should not reach the House of Lords before 
the Easter adjournment. Time appeared to be on their 
side. The chapter of accidents might at any moment 
cause the fall of a Government which had no majority 
for anything except its tariff policy. The failure of the 
potato crop was proving to have been exaggerated, and 
if the course of events should dispel panic it was possible 

individual at the head of the administration.' Why not prosecute him ? 
Here was an antlered monarch of the woods : why Imnt small deer '? Peel 
rose afterwards and explained that it had been his intention to relieve 
Cobden completely of the imputation he had put upon him by a misappre- 
hension ; Cobden accepted the disavowal ; and peace was established. 
1 Hansard, May 8, 1846. 

372 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

that the House of Lords might have the courage to reject 
the Bill when eventually it reached them. There was 
no excitement in the country in favour of the new policy, 
and a good deal of excitement among the farmers against 
it. The Ministerial changes had led to a number of 
by-elections ; and Lord Ashley and other members who 
had been elected as protectionists, more sensitive as to 
their pledges than the Minister and his colleagues, thought 
it right to vacate their seats. Nearly every vacant seat 
was carried against the Government. Lord Lincoln, 
who had been promoted to the office of Chief Secretary, 
was defeated through the influence of his father, the Duke 
of Newcastle, and Gladstone through the same influence 
left without a seat for the remainder of the Parliament. 

Thus encouraged, the protectionists gathered confidence 
and force. Bentinck, who still persisted in refusing to 
accept the formal position of leader, was indefatigable 
in debate and in all the work of organisation that properly 
falls to a leader. The resolutions on which the Govern- 
ment's Bills were to be based abounded in detail, and 
several weeks were consumed in getting them through 
committee. It was not till March 27 that the Bill for 
the repeal of the Corn Laws was read a second time, and 
the majority for the Government had now sunk to 88. 
Disraeli, who at this time appears to have been in poor 
health, and soon afterwards was definitely ill, took no 
part in the debate of four nights that preceded ; and its 
only remarkable feature was a speech by Palmerston, in 
which, after an abstract eulogy of free trade, he astonished 
the free traders by unfurling the standard of a moderate 
fixed duty. 

The cheers suddenly stopped ; and a member for a metro- 
politan district who had been applauding vociferously whis- 
pered to a neighbour : ' He has spoilt a capital speech ; what 
could have induced him to bring in a fixed duty ! ' Penetrating 
member for a metropolitan district ! As if the ' capital 
speech ' had been made for any other purpose than to intro- 
duce the very declaration which you looked upon as so 
damaging ! There is diplomacy even in debate : Lord 


Palraerston threw a practised and prescient eye over the dis- 
turbed elements of the House of Commons, and two months 
afterwards, when a protectionist Ministry on moderate prin- 
ciples (principles moderate and not fixed) was not impossible, 
the speech of the noble lord was quoted by many as a rallying- 

How disturbed the elements were, and how uncertain 
the protectionist position, in spite of the good division, 
is shown by a letter from Stafford O'Brien to Disraeli 
on the following day. ' I am altogether unsanguine,' he 
writes, ' as to our compactness, and I believe that we 
shall go to pieces so fast that it will soon be a question 
how far we shall be authorised in maintaining ourselves 
as a party at all.' In political history, when we look 
beneath the surface, we find the key to most events in 
personal will and influence ; and here there is no excep- 
tion. Nothing could seem more natural and inevitable 
now than the permanence of the party which seceded 
from Peel ; as a matter of fact, but for the exertions of 
Disraeli and Bentinck it would either never have been 
born at all or its life would have been brief and flickering, 
and the resistance to the Minister have speedily collapsed. 

Fortune rarely fails to favour a bold and determined 
policy, and the protectionist leaders now began to be 
helped by a blunder of which the Minister had been 
guilty. The distress in Ireland during the winter, not 
severe enough to produce the paralysis of famine, had 
been severe enough to provoke a serious outbreak of 
agrarian crime ; and in the Queen's speech at the begin- 
ning of the session a measure for the protection of life 
had been promised. A month had been allowed to elapse, 
and then, in fulfilment of this promise, a stringent 
'Coercion' Bill had been brought into the House of Lords. 
It had been supported there by the Whigs as well as by 
the Tories, but had been passed through its stages in a 

^ Lord George Bentinck, ch. 6. Palmerston wrote to Disraeli on 
March 29, in reply to some note, probably, of congratulation : ' I could 
not refrain from affording one "pitying tear to grace the obsequies'' of 
fixed duty. Many would. I am persuaded, be glad to revive it ; but to all 
appearance its life seems entirely extinct.' 

374 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xn 

leisurely fashion ; and, reaching the Commons in the 
middle of ]\Iarch, had been allowed to remain dormant 
till after the Corn Bill had received its second reading. 
If such a measure as the Coercion Bill was needed at all, 
it was obviously needed at once, and ought to have been 
pressed through both Houses with all the force of the 
Government in the first weeks of the session. Probably 
in that case it would have met with little resistance ; 
but the opportunity was missed. Peel, in fact, had put 
forward two opposite remedies for the troubles in Ireland, 
but inverted their logical order. His passionate eagerness 
in the matter of the Corn Bill had blinded his judgment, 
and led liim into an error of political strategy which was 
to pursue him throughout the session, and finally cause 
his overthrow. 

The first reading of the Coercion Bill was to be taken 
in the Commons on March 30, and before the appointed 
day the protectionists met to consider the course to 
be adopted. With assassination rife, and the Whigs, as 
was supposed, already committed to the Bill by their 
leaders in the Lords, the result was never in doubt. 
Disraeli alone urged them to pause before they gave a 
Government, 'against which they were arrayed in cir- 
cumstances of urgent and unusual opposition,' the strik- 
ing proof of confidence that would be involved in their 
pledging themselves to support such a measure ; but his 
arguments, as he tells us, ' though received with kindness, 
elicited little sympathy.' Bentinck, marking the general 
feeling, intervened with the adroit suggestion that they 
should make their support conditional on the Minister's 
proving his sincerity by pressing forward with the 
Coercion Bill in preference to every other measure ; and 
this suggestion, promising the advantage of an indefinite 
delay of the Corn Bill, was adopted with enthusiasm. 

Thus authorised, Bentinck made an arrangement 
with the Government Whip by which the third reading 
of the Corn Bill was to be postponed till after Easter, 
and the protectionists were to support the Government 


in pushing forward the Coercion Bill. For some reason 
Peel repudiated this arrangement, and, while adhering 
to his determination to give the Coercion Bill a first 
reading at once, refused his assent to the postponement 
of the Corn Bill. Meanwhile the Whigs, though feeling 
no dislike for coercion as such, decided to insist that the 
Corn Bill should have precedence, and the Government 
suddenly found themselves in a false and dangerous posi- 
tion. They had in the same breath to argue that the 
urgency of the Coercion Bill made it necessary to post- 
pone everything till its principle had been affirmed, and 
to promise that, if this Bill had once been granted a first 
reading, it should not be allowed to interfere with the 
progress of the Corn Bill. Even so, on the night of the 
30th, though supported by all the protectionists present, 
they only escaped defeat, on a dilatory amendment moved 
from the Whig benches, by a majority of 39. 

The division of the House of Commons between free 
traders and protectionists had now ceased to be para- 
mount, and for the next three months the fate of the 
Government hung on a nice balance of factions. There 
were about 120 Peelites, the old guard of the Govern- 
ment ; a rather more numerous body of Radicals and 
O'Connellites, who were opposed to coercion on principle ; 
perhaps 150 Whigs, who, though not opposed to coercion, 
wished the Corn Bill to have precedence; and 250 pro- 
tectionists, who wished the order of the Bills reversed. 
In this situation the Irish members began a course of 
obstruction, and when the Easter adjournment came, 
though all the Government time had been given to the 
Irish Bill, it had not received a first reading. The 
obstinate Minister even announced that, when the House 
met again in the middle of April, he would proceed with 
it again till the stage was completed. 

The Irish members glanced defiance, and the protectionists 
could scarcely conceal their satisfaction. The reputation 
of Sir Robert Peel for Parliamentary management seemed to 
be vanishing ; never was a Government in a more tottering 

376 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

state ; and the Whigs especially began to renew their laments 
that the Edinburgh letter and its consequences had prevented 
the settlement of the corn question from devolving to the 
natural arbitrator in the great controversy, their somewhat 
rash but still unrivalled leader, Lord John Russell.^ 

In such a situation intrigue was, of course, rife. 

The lovers of compromise, always the strongest party in 
this country, were now active. Why did not the Whigs step 
in and settle the question in a spirit consistent with all their 
previous declarations, which even the protectionists would 
now willingly accept ? A moderate fixed duty was the Whig 
policy ; it would save the honour of the landed party ; it would 
meet the scientific objections of those economical authorities 
who, however favourable to interchange, were of opinion that 
it was injurious to encounter hostile tariffs by free imports ; 
it might prove a fruitful source of revenue; finally, it would 
permit the formation of a strong Government, and the Whigs 
would only be in their natural position as the leaders of the 
aristocracy of the country.^ 

Perhaps foreseeing the possibility of some such develop- 
ment, Disraeli, as the reader may have noticed, had 
during the last couple of years greatly moderated the 
violence of his attacks on the Whigs, had treated Russell 
with some deference both in his novels and in the House 
of Commons, and with Palmerston had even contrived to 
establish a sort of friendship. When intrigue was going, 
Disraeli was not likely to be wholly without a hand in it, 
but his papers throw little light on his activities at this 
moment. Such evidence as is to be gleaned from them 
indicates that he was anxious for the formation of a 
strong Government, and the only possible basis for such 
a Government was an arrangement between Whigs and 
protectionists. If Palmerston, not Russell, had been 
leader of the Whigs, there can be very little doubt that 
such an arrangement would have been effected, and that 
Peel would have fallen. 

The Whigs were sufficiently patriotic not to shrink from 
office ; they were as a party both from feeling and conviction 

^ Lord George Bentinck, ch. 9. ^Ihid., ch. 11. 


unanimous in favour of a fixed duty; Lord Palmerston's 
speech was still ringing in the ears of the House of Commons, 
and not to run the risk of its being forgotten his lordship had 
properly taken care to have it printed ; they were sure under 
the circumstances of the unanimous support of the Irish 
members, who would have got rid at the same time of the Corn 
and the Coercion Bills ; they would have received from the 
landed interest a permanent support ; and if Lord George 
Bentiuck had entered the new Cabinet, which many among 
the Whigs talked of and desired, he would have only reverted 
to that ancient political connexion of which his house for 
generations had been one of the main props.^ 

A junction between the two aristocratic parties, the 
Whigs and the protectionists, leaving Peel, if he liked, 
to join forces with the middle-class Liberals under 
Cobden, with whom he was now most in sympathy, 
would have been the best and healthiest outcome of 
the situation. It would have anticipated in a sense a 
rearrangement which was delayed till 1886, and averted 
much of the confusion of the intervening period. But 
Russell, embarrassed by his Edinburgh letter, which had 
been intended to embarrass others, and even more, 
perhaps, by his engagement with the Queen to support 
Peel in a settlement of the Corn Laws, proved an in- 
superable obstacle, and the plan came to nothing. 

Another combination was possible, however, which 
we may believe was not without attractions for Disraeli. 
The protectionists and the Irish members together formed 
a clear majority of the House, and united would be able 
to defeat the Government. O'Connell, the Irish leader, 
still, indeed, clung to his old allies the Whigs, and was 
anxious to hasten the passing of the Corn Bill in order to 
facilitate their return to power ; but O'Connell was now 
at the end of his career, and his influence almost gone. 
The younger generation, whose aims were national and 
social rather than religious and political, had no particular 
love either for the Whigs or the Corn Bill ; and they were 
at present in a state of fury against Peel. They had 
long been familiar with Disraeli's broad views on the 
1 Lord George Bentinck, eh. 11. 

378 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

subject of Ireland ; and in the debate on the Coercion 
Bill Beutinck had made a speech that attracted their 
attention, and proved that his views were as liberal as 
Disraeli's. This was before Easter, and after the holidays, 
while the debate on the Coercion Bill was still dragging 
slowly along. Smith O'Brien, who was the leader of the 
Young Ireland party in the House, made overtures to 
Bentinck. In order to clear the air, O'Brien by arrange- 
ment rose in his place, and, accepting the protectionist 
position that the Government had no right to couple the 
question of Irish famine with the question of free trade 
— nay, accusing the Prime Minister of a singular want of 
candour in putting forward the famine as a pretext for 
what Avas clearly not an Irish but an English measure — 
he asked whether Bentinck and his friends would support 
a Bill to suspend the existing Corn Laws with respect to 
Ireland, so as to admit grain duty-free. Bentiuck, who 
had just at last been persuaded to accept the formal 
office of leader, made a statesmanlike reply. He argued 
against the assumption that O'Brien's suggested remedy 
would afford any relief, pointing out that corn was still 
being exported from Ireland, and that its price there was 
lower than the price in England of foreign corn in bond ; 
and insisting very justly that the real trouble in Ireland 
was not the want of food, but the want of money to buy 
it, and that the only immediate remedy was to break the 
rigid rules of political economy and make provision for 
the needy. But he wished to dispel the illusion that the 
protectionist party stood between the people of Ireland 
and their food ; and if the Irish members proposed a 
suspension of the Corn Laws, he and his friends, though 
convinced of the futility of such a measure, were willing 
to support it. 

The story at once went round that a compact had been 
arranged between the protectionists and the Irish mem- 
bers, and the Government and the free traders took 
serious alarm. Cobden presently rose and rated the 
protectionists in vigorous style ; threatening them with 

1846] A SCENE 379 

dissolution, at which they only cheered, and reminding 
O'Brien and Bentinck that there were other parties to 
be consulted on the proposition they were making. 'There 
are the people of England — I don't mean the country 
party, but the people living in the towns, and who will 
govern this country.' At this Peel was supposed to cheer ; 
and Disraeli, rising after Cobden, said he had defined the 
people, with whose indignation he threatened them, as 
those who lived in towns, and the Prime Minister, who 
had once been proud of being the head of the gentlemen 
of England, had cheered that definition. Peel jumped 
up and exclaimed : '• I totally deny it ; ' whereupon 
Disraeli said : ' The right hon. gentleman totally denies 
it. If he means to say that anything I stated is false, 
of course, I sit down.' Peel remained silent, and a scene 
of confusion and excitement followed till at length 
satisfactory explanations were exchanged and all again 
became tranquil. 

The incident, however, had a sequel. The Prime 
Minister's brother, Colonel Jonathan Peel, coming up to 
Disraeli in the House when peace had been restored, 
said : 'There shall be no doubt as to what one person thinks 
of your assertion, and / say it is false.' The last duel 
in England had not yet been fought, and Disraeli at once 
placed the matter in the hands of Bentinck, who called 
on Peel to retract. He was referred by Peel to a friend,^ 
and Disraeli went to bed to prepare for a visit to Worm- 
wood Scrubbs with pistols in the morning ; but a con- 
ference between the seconds late at night at White's 
Club led to the withdrawal of the offensive expression, 
with an ample apology. Disraeli was supposed to have 
behaved well throughout the affair.^ 

^ Captain (afterwards Admiral) Rous. The apology in Bentinck's hand 
and signed by him and Rous, is preserved among Disraeli's papers. There 
have been stories of a challenge from Sir Robert Peel himself, but this inci- 
dent appears to be their only foundation ; though Disraeli in later years told 
Lord Rowton that 'Sir Robert v^as a very " fightable " man, and wished 
to challenge me often, but was restrained by Lord Granby and others.' 

2 See Broughton's Recollections, VI. p. 168, where Brougham, in the 
midst of some vulgar abuse, gives his testimony to this effect. 

380 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

It was now the last week of April, and the Coercion Bill 
was still awaiting its first reading, while the Corn Bill had 
not been heard of for a month. The general feeling was 
that the situation had become critical, and Peel himself 
saw that he must make a great effort to end the deadlock. 
When the House next met he spoke on the Coercion Bill, 
and, alluding to insinuations that the Government were 
becoming indifferent to the progress of the Corn Bill, said 
that he was more than ever determined to carry the Corn 
Bill through ; that his opinions indeed had changed in 
the course of the debates, but the change was that 
restrictions which he had at first believed to be impolitic 
he now believed to be unjust. A sense of their injustice 
precluded any compromise, and he would be perfectly 
ready to testify, by any public art, the sincerity of his 
intentions. This was generally interpreted as a threat of 
dissolution, but Bentinck was undismayed. He never 
would believe that Peel would dissolve, because, ' what- 
ever might be the national decision as to the principle of 
policy which was to be adopted, he was convinced that 
the whole body of the present men in office, at least with 
rare exceptions, must lose their seats.' The Whigs, 
however, were frightened by the threat of dissolution, 
and Young Ireland was discouraged by the loss of its 
leader, Smith O'Brien, who had been imprisoned by the 
House for refusing to serve on a railway committee. A 
few days after this speech of Peel's the division on the 
Coercion Bill was taken at last, and the first reading 
carried by a great majority. Neither Whigs nor pro- 
tectionists had yet advanced to a position of hostility to 
the principle, and Russell and Bentinck, and most of 
their followers, voted with the Government. Disraeli 
walked out of the House. 

The way was now clear for the Corn Bill again, but 
on the motion to go into committee Bentinck demanded 
an explanation of Peel's remark that he now regarded the 
Corn Laws as not only impolitic, but unjust. In rallying 
his colleagues and attempting to rally his followers after 


Russell's failure in December, Peel ^ had justified his 
course by the assurance that the only alternative to a 
free trade Conservative Ministry was a Government 
dominated by Cobden. The position which he assumed 
at the meeting of Parliament ' was that of the patriotic 
individual who by great sacrifices had succeeded in pre- 
venting Cobden from becoming a Minister.' But the 
revolt of his followers had entirely changed his tone, and 
his declaration that the repeal of the Corn Laws was a 
matter of justice rather than of policy marked a fresh 
approximation to the Manchester League which greatly 
irritated the protectionists. His reply to Bentinck on 
the present occasion did not diminish their irritation. 

Both sides of the House listened with no little astonish- 
ment while the Minister, with an apparent interest in the 
subject which it would have been supposed novelty could 
have alone inspired, recapitulated all those arguments which 
for years the Anti-Corn-Law League had presented to the 
consideration, not only of the community, but ev^en of the 
House of Commons, in every form which ingenuity could 
devise and a versatile and experienced rhetoric illustrate 
and enforce. But when, with an air of discovery, he availed 
himself of one of the most subtle but certainly not least 
hackneyed tactics of Mr. Cobden, and, in order to depreciate 
the importance of wheat-growing, called upon the House to 
take the map of Great Britain, and divide the island by 
a line from Inverness to Southampton, and observe that, 
generally speaking, to the westward of the line the country 
had no interest in the restrictions on the importation of 
wheat, the gentlemen who had left their agricultural con- 
stituents in the lurch because they had been told that, unless 
Sir Robert Peel were permitted to repeal the Corn Laws, 
Mr. Cobden might actually become a Minister, began to ask 
themselves whether, after all, such an event would not have 
been the honestest arrangement of the two. Unlike the 
Corn Laws, the exclusion of Mr. Cobden might have been 

1 See, for instance, his letter to the Queen, in Queen Victoria's Letters, 
under date Dec. 21, 1845 : ' Sir Robert Peel . . . has written very 
strongly to the Duke [of Buccleugh], stating that the present question is 
not one of Corn Law, but whether your Majesty's former servants or Lord 
Grey and Mr. Cobden shall constitute your Majesty's Government. Sir 
Robert Peel defied the wit of man to suggest now another alternative to 
your Majesty.' 

382 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xix 

politic, but, 'after the discussion of the last three months,' 
it certainly seemed unjust.^ 

Disraeli in the course of the evening happily ridiculed 
'the fervour of Peel's mimetic rhetoric' Taking up a 
remark of the Minister's that the debate was unexpected, 
he said : 

Though not prepared for a debate, I can scarcely say that 
is an excuse for not being prepared to answer the speech of 
the right hon. baronet. That is not a speech heard now for 
the first time. It has been heard in other places, in different 
localities, and, I may be permitted to add, from a master- 
hand. That speech has sounded in Stockport ; it has echoed 
in Durham." There has been on the stage of the classical 
theatre a representation of it on the finest scale, and, as is 
usual in such cases, the popular performance is now repeated 
by an inferior company. Especially, when I heard the line 
drawn which marks on the map the corn-growing districts 
of Great Britain, I thouglit I might say, as I hear sometimes 
said on railway committees upon rival lines, 'That is surely 
the line of the hon. member for Stockport' (Mr. Cobden). 

But, in spite of Disraeli's wit and Bentinck's zeal and 
energy, the Minister, backed by the Whigs, now made 
steady progress, and the Corn Bill soon reached the stage 
of third reading. It was read a third time on May 15, 
after a debate of three nights, by a majority of 98 in a 
House of 560. Disraeli on the last night made the speech 
of the debate. According to the fashion of the time, it 
was a speech of great length, occupying no less than 
three hours in the delivery, and throughout its greater 
part it was a closely-reasoned performance on the lines of 
the speech in February. Clinging to his central position, 
he had little difficulty in showing the contradictions in 
whicli the theorists of free trade were involved by their 
a priori dogmas ; and many of his own arguments are 
curious anticipations of the arguments that have become 
familiar during the revival of the controversy in the last 
ten years. He believed, for instance, ' that the effect 

^ Lord George Bentinck, ch. 12. 2 Bright's constituency. 


of the present Corn Laws was to raise the price of the 
necessaries of life in this country'; but he also believed 
'that they increased in an infinitely greater ratio the 
purchasing powers by the community of the necessaries 
of life.' He believed, again, that it could be 'laid down 
as a principle of commerce, that where an article could be 
progressively produced to an indefinite extent, precisely 
as the demand increased the price would decrease.' Even 
the colonial argument was touched upon. ' I am not one 
of those who think it the inevitable lot of the people of 
Canada to become annexed to the United States. Canada 
has all the elements of a great and independent country, 
and is destined, I sometimes believe, to be the Russia of 
the new world. . . . But I will ask the gentlemen of 
Manchester to consider what may become of the trans- 
atlantic market for their manufactures if the whole of 
that continent belong to one power.' All this was lit 
up by occasional flashes of Disraelian wit: the suggestion, 
for instance, of a limbo for political economists, to which 
their exhausted arguments and exploded fallacies might 
be consigned after serving their turn ; the picture of the 
member for Lincoln placing the arch-fiend of political 
economy on the celebrated tower that overlooks the city, 
to take a survey of the agriculture spread out before 
hira; and the often-quoted description of Cobden and his 
friends: 'I find that a body of men have risen in this 
country eminent for their eloquence, distinguished for 
their energ)% but more distinguished, in my humble 
opinion, for their energy and their eloquence than for their 
knowledge of human nature or for the extent of their 
political information.' 

This led him on to the conclusion of the speech, which 
was a long and sustained invective against Peel. The 
Anti-Corn-Law League had been successful, he said, 
because the party who were hostile to their ideas had not 
unnaturally slumbered at their posts, trusting to their 
leaders — to those who had clambered into power by 
accepting, or rather by eagerly seeking, the trust of 

384 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

guarding them — to one who in this way had obtained 
the greatest phice in the country, and at that moment 
governed England. More than a year ago he had said 
in his place that protection appeared to him to be in 
about the same state that Protestantism was in in 1829. 
His friends, he remembered, were very indignant at that 
assertion, but they had since been so kind as to observe 
that, instead of being a calumny, it was only a prophecy. 
But with that very humble exception the Prime Minister, 
he thought, had been completely successful in deceiving 
his party to the very last moment. How ingenuous was 
his conduct he left the House to decide; but was it not 
strange that after all his Machiavellian manoeuvres, when 
he met them at last, he acted as if they had deserted 
him, instead of his having deserted them ? Who could 
forget those tones and that indignant glance ? 

Vectabor humeris tunc ego inimicis eques : 
Meseque terra cedet insolentiae : ^ 

which was as much as to say: ' I, a protectionist Minister, 
mean to govern England by the aid of the Anti-Corn-Law 
League; and as for the country gentlemen, why, I snap 
my fingers in their faces.' 

Yet even then the right hon. gentleman had no cause to 
complain of his party. It is very true that, on a subsequent 
occasion, 240 gentlemen recorded their sense of his conduct. 
But then he might have remembered the considerable 
section of converts that he obtained, even in the last hour. 
(Loud laughter.) Why, what a compliment to a Minister — 
not only to vote for him, but to vote for him against your 
opinions (much cheering), and in favour of opinions which 
he had always drilled you to distrust. (Loud cheers.) That 
was a scene, I believe, unprecedented in the House of Commons. 
Indeed, I recollect nothing equal to it, unless it be the con- 
version of the Saxons by Charlemagne, which is the only 
historical incident that bears any parallel to that illustrious 
occasion. (Great cheers and laughter.) Hanged on the 
banks of the Rhine, the Saxons determined to resist any 
further movement on the part of the great Caesar ; but when 
the Emperor appeared, instead of conquering he converted 

1 Horace, Epod. XVII, 74, 76. 


them. How were they converted? In battalions — the old 
chronicler informs us they were converted in battalions and 
baptised in platoons. (Roars of laughter.) It was utterly 
impossible to bring these individuals from a state of repro- 
bation to a state of grace with a celerity sufficiently quick. 
When I saw the hundred and twelve fall into rank and file, I 
was irresistibly reminded of that memorable incident on the 
banks of the Ehine. (Loud cheers.) 

He must say, in vindication of the right hon. gentleman, 
that a great injustice had been done him throughout 
these debates. He had been accused of foregone 
treachery, of long-meditated deception, of always having 
intended to abandon the opinions by which he rose to 

Sir, I entirely acquit the right hon. gentleman of any such 
intention. I do it for this reason: that when I examine the 
career of this Minister, which has now filled a great space 
in the Parliamentary history of his country, I find that between 
thirty and forty years, from the days of Mr. Horner to the 
days of the hon. member for Stockport, that right hon. gentle- 
man has traded on the ideas and intelligence of others. (Loud 
cheering.) His life has been a great appropriation clause. 
(Shouts of laughter and cheers.) He is a burglar of others' 
intellect. Search the Index of Beatson, from the days of the 
Conqueror to the termination of the last reign, there is no 
statesman who has committed political petty larceny on so 
great a scale. (Renewed laughter.) I believe, therefore, when 
the right hon. gentleman undertook our cause on either side 
of the House, that he was perfectly sincere in his advocacy; 
but as, in the course of discussion, the conventionalisms which 
he received from us crumbled away in his grasp, feeling no 
creative power to sustain him with new arguments, feeling 
no spontaneous sentiments to force upon him conviction, the 
right hon. gentleman, reduced at last to defending the noblest 
cause, one based on the most high and solemn principles, 
upon the 'burdens peculiar to agriculture'^ — the right hon. 
gentleman, faithful to the law of his nature, imbibed the new 
doctrines, the more vigorous, bustling, popular, and progres- 
sive doctrines, as he had imbibed the doctrines of Mr. Horner 
— as he had imbibed the doctrines of every leading man in this 
country for thirty or forty years, with the exception of the 

1 The words in inverted commas, we are told, were uttered in a tone of 
sarcasm that elicted very great laughter. 

VOL. II — 2 c 

386 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

doctrine of Parliamentary reform, which the Whigs very 
wisely led the country upon, and did not allow to grow 
sufficiently matui'e to fall into his mouth. 

The right hoii. gentleman told them that he did not 
feel humiliated. It was impossible for anyone to know 
what were the feelings of another ; but this he would tell 
him, that, though he might not feel humiliated, his 
country ought to feel humiliated. Was it grateful to 
the pride of England that her foremost citizen should be 
one of whom it might be said, as Dean Swift said of 
another, that ' he was a gentleman who had the perpetual 
misfortune to be mistaken ' ? Even now in this the last scene 
of the drama, when the party which he had unintentionally 
betrayed was to be intentionally annihilated, faithful to 
the law of his being, he was going to pass a project which 
it was a matter of notoriety was not of his own invention. 

After the day that the right hon. gentleman made his first 
exposition of his scheme, a gentleman well known in this House, 
and learned in all the political secrets behind the scenes, 
met me, and said : ' Well, what do you think of your chief's 
plan ? ' Not knowing exactly what to say, but, taking up a 
phrase which has been much used in the House, I observed : 
' Well, I suppose it's a " great and comprehensive " plan.' 
' Oh ! ' he replied, ' we know all about it ! It was offered to 
us ! It is not his plan ; it's Popkins's plan ! ' (Peals of laughter 
from all parts of the House. ) And is England to be governed, 
and is England to be convulsed, by ' Popkins's plan ' ? (Cheers 
and laughter.) Will he go to the country with it? Will he 
go with it to that ancient and famous England that once was 
governed by statesmen — by Burleighs and by Walsinghams ; 
by Bolingbrokes and by Walpoles ; by a Chatham and a 
Canning — will he go to it with this fantastic scheming of some 
presumptuous pedant ? (Great cheering.) I won't believe 
it. I have that confidence in the common sense, I will say 
the common spirit of our countrymen, that I believe they 
will not long endure this huckstering tyranny of the Treasury 
bench (loud cheers) — these political pedlars that bought their 
party in the cheapest market, and sold us in the dearest. 
(Enthusiastic cheering.) 

I know, sir, that there are many who believe that the 
time is gone by when one can appeal to those high and honest 
impulses that were once the mainstay and the main element 

1846] POPKINS'S PLAN 387 

of the English character. I know, sir, that we appeal to a 
people debauched by public gambling, stimulated and en- 
couraged by an inefficient and a short-sighted Minister. I 
know that the public mind is polluted with economic fancies — 
a depraved desire that the rich may become richer without 
the interference of industry and toil. I know, sir, that all 
confidence in public men is lost. (Great cheering.) But, sir, 
I have faith in the primitive and enduring elements of the 
English character. It may be vain now, in the midnight of 
their intoxication, to tell them that there will be an awakening 
of bitterness ; it may be idle now, in the springtide of their 
economic frenzy, to warn them that there may be an ebb of 
trouble. But the dark and inevitable hour will arrive. Then, 
when their spirits are softened by misfortune, they will recur 
to those principles that made England great, and which, in 
our belief, will only keep England great. (Prolonged cheers.) 
Then too, sir, perchance they may remember, not with un- 
kindness, those who, betrayed and deserted, were neither 
ashamed nor afraid to struggle for the ' good old cause ' — 
the cause with which are associated principles the most 
popular, sentiments the most entirely national, the cause 
of labour, the cause of the people, the cause of England ! 

'Mr. Disraeli,' it is recorded, 'here resumed his seat 
amid cheers which for duration and vehemence are seldom 
heard within the walls of Parliament.' It was eight years 
since he had told them that the time would come when 
they would hear him. 

From Lord Ponsonhy} 

May 15, 1846. 
Mt dear Disraeli, 

'A cat may look at a king, and a country parson may 
praise a Bishop.' Such is the beginning of a letter from 
Sydney Smith to the Bishop of Oxford. 

Fortified by the above assertion of right, I will venture to 
praise you. I heard your speech — all but the first few minutes. 
It lasted, they say, three hours, and when it was over I wished 
it to last three hours more. I thought your argument admi- 
rably managed, and perfectly sound in essence, and I doubt 
if any classic orator of Rome or England ever did anything 
so well as you crucified Peel. Had I been him, I would have 
rushed at and murdered you, or run home and hanged mysel£ 

1 See note, p. 225. 

388 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

John Russell tired me in a quarter of an hour, and I left the 
House dissatisfied. 

I never in my life heard any speech so much cheered as 
yours was ; I never saw so much effect produced by one. I 
think you will no longer talk of flying your country ; I think 
you will no longer talk of difficulties of position, but will feel 
that you were born to the foremost rank of its chiefest orna- 
ments and leaders. From the first of my acquaintance with 
you 1 felt your power. 

Tell Mrs. Disraeli that I wish her joy. 

Yours most truly, 


Hobhouse also bears his testimony to the great impres- 
sion made by the speech : 

His conclusion for a good twenty minutes was a steady 
philippic against Peel, which was very powerful indeed, an4 
produced a great effect on all parts of the House. Peel 
looked miserable, and his brother Jonathan more wretched 
still, and bursting with mortification ; even Macaulay told 
me he thought the effect very powerful, and the speech the 
best Disraeli ever made. Russell, who followed, was unable 
to go on for some time on account of the prolonged cheering ! ^ 

The final cheer is recalled by Disraeli himself in a note 
of the sixties reminiscent of an incident to which the 
speech gave rise. 

After my great speech in 1846, on the second [sic'] reading 
of the Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and which was 
followed by the loudest and the longest cheer that ever was 
heard in the House of Commons, a gentleman who was obliged 
to be a protectionist, but no friend of mine, but very much 
of Sir R. Peel, met O'Connell in the lobby, and asked him 
what he thought of my speech. ' I should have said,' replied 
the great Dan, ' that it was one of the ablest speeches I ever 
heard in the House of Commons, but for the invective.' 
' Ah ! ' said the protectionist, shaking his head and looking 
quite mournful at the mention of the sacrilege. ' But for 
the invective,' continued O'Connell, ' and that made it incom- 

' What a sell ! ' said Lord March, who heard it and came 
and told me. 

1 Broughton, VI., p. 170. 

1846] PEEL'S TAUNT 389 

The speech was followed by another incident which 
has become too celebrated. Peel, who had an angry 
reception ^ from the members of the country party, spoke 
later in the evening, and, after the customary prelude that 
he would not condescend to bandy personalities, remarked 
that, when he entered on his present course from a sense 
of public duty, he foresaw that it would expose him to 
many serious sacrifices ; but the smallest of all the 
penalties which he then anticipated were the continued 
venomous attacks of the member for Shrewsbury. 

Sir, I will only say of that lion, gentleman, that if he, after 
reviewing the whole of my public life — a life extending over 
thirty years previously to my accession to office in 1841 — if 
he then entertained the opinion of me which he now professes ; 
if he thought I was guilty of these petty larcenies from 
Mr. Horner and others, it is a little surprising that in the 
spring of 1841, after his long experience of my public career, 
he should have been prepared to give me his confidence. It 
is still more surprising that he should have been ready, as I 
think he was, to unite his fortunes with mine in office, thus 
implying the strongest proof which any public man can give 
of confidence in the honour and integrity of a Minister of the 

The retort was not overwhelming ; nor was the taunt 
very chivalrous, though the provocation may have excused 
it. Disraeli might well have remained silent ; or, still better, 
if he had risen and frankly told the story of his applica- 
tion to Peel in 1841, in which there was nothing really 
discreditable, he would, in all probability, have carried 
the House with him, and effectually have turned the tables 
on his antagonist. But, frightened, we may believe, by 
a consciousness that his character did not stand high, he 
for once lost his head, and grievously blundered. Rising 
after Peel, he asked for a moment's attention to the 

1 ' When he talked of honour and conscience' (Greville tells us under date 
May 21, 1846), ' they assailed him with shouts of derision and gestures of 
contempt. Such treatment in a House of Commons, where for years he 
had been an object of deference and respect, nearly overcame him. The 
Speaker told me that for a minute or more he was obliged to stop ; and, for 
the first time in his life, probably, he lost his self-possession, and the 
Speaker . . . expected him to burst into tears.' 

390 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

' peculiarly personal ' subject of the Prime Minister's 
insinuation, and then embarked on a shambling and 
obviously embarrassed statement, of which, however, the 
general effect is only too clear. He began by denying 
that his ojDposition to the Government had been inspired 
by personal motives, pointing out, fairly enough, that 
he had supported them for two years, and that his first 
step in opposition had only been taken when his con- 
stituents in 1843 called on him to explain his views on 
protection. He then proceeded : 

I understand the insinuation of the right hon. gentleman, 
if it meant anything, to be this — that my opposition, or, as 
he called it, my * envenomed opposition ' to hiin, was occa- 
sioned by my being disappointed of office. Now, having been 
for five years in opposition to the late Government, an active, 
though I well know not an influential, supporter of the right 
hon. gentleman, and having been favoured by him with an 
acknowledgment of his sense of my slight services, I do not 
think there would have been anything dishonourable for me 
if, when the new Government was formed in 1841, I had been 
an applicant for office. It might have been in good taste or 
not, but at least there would have been nothing dishonour- 
able ; but I can assure the House nothing of the kind ever 
occurred. I never shall — it is totally foreign to my nature — 
make an application for any place. But in 1841, when the 
Government was formed ... an individual possessing, as I 
believe him to possess, the most intimate and complete 
confidence of the right hon. gentleman called on me and 
communicated with me. There was certainly some con- 
versation — I have certainly never adverted to these circum- 
stances, and should not now unless compelled, because they 
were under a seal of secrecy confided in me. There was some 
communication, not at all of that nature which the House 
perhaps supposes, between the right hon. gentleman and me, 
but of the most amicable kind. I can only say this — it was 
a transaction not originated by me, but which any gentleman, 
I care not how high his honour or spirit, might entertain to- 

After an allusion to the rumours of interested motives 
that were put in circulation from the moment that he 
began to criticise the Government, he concluded : 


I never asked a favour of the Government, not even one 
of those mechanical things which persons are obliged to ask 
. . . and, as regards myself, I never directly or indirectly 
solicited office. ... It is very possible if, in 1841, 1 had been 
offered office, I dare say it would have been a very slight 
office, but I dare say I should have accepted it. I have not 
that high opinion of myself as to suppose that the more 
important offices of the Government would have been offered 
to my acceptance ; but I can only say that I am very glad 
I did not accept it. But with respect to my being a solicitor 
of office, it is entirely unfounded. Whatever occurred in 
1841 between the right hon. gentleman and myself was entirely 
attributable to the intervention of another gentleman, whom 
I supposed to be in the confidence of the right hon. baronet, 
and I dare say it may have arisen from a misconception. 

Peel was content to rejoin that he had not attributed 
personal motives for Disraeli's opposition. He had only 
asked why, if Disraeli really believed he deserved the 
character he had given him to-night, he should in 1841 
'have intimated to me that he was not unwilling to give 
me that proof of confidence that would have been implied 
by the acceptance of office.' The impression in the 
House was that Disraeli had better have remained silent, 
and there the matter ended. 

Of the mysterious ' individual ' of Disraeli's speech, 
and his ' communication ' from Peel, authorised or not, 
in 1841, we know nothing besides. It might conceivably 
have been someone — Lyndhurst or another — who en- 
deavoured to soothe Disraeli's feelings by hinting at the 
real difficulties in the way of Peel's giving him office ; 
but there is no reason to think that if we knew more the 
whole transaction would wear any very different aspect. 
We have already seen that as early as 1844 Disraeli 
denied before his constituents that he had ever asked 
Peel for office, and it is impossible to believe that in the 
short space of three years he could have forgotten his 
letter of 1841. ^ Speaking among his constituents, he 
might have thought he was safe from challenge ; but it 

1 There is nothing in DisraeU's papers to indicate that he kept a copy 
of this letter. 

392 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xn 

is very hard to understand how he could have risen in 
the House of Commons, and, with his position clearly 
before his eyes, have taken tlie terrible risk of Peel's 
crushing him for ever by producing the correspondence. ^ 
By way of meeting this difficulty, it has been pointed out 
that in the letter of 1841 there is no explicit request for 
office, and that it might therefore have been just possible 
to reconcile it with the speech of 18-16. But the House 
of Commons would have been little impressed by such 
ingenious refinements, and Disraeli himself, to do him 
justice, in his moments of complete self-possession 
would have scorned to seek shelter beneath them. ' The 
general effect is the thing' — that is his own canon; and 
though some element of mystery may remain in this 
affair, the general effect is clear enough. Having asked 
Peel for office in 1841, Disraeli in 1846, not to press the 
other occasion, publicly denied that he had done so ; and 
he must pay the full penalty. Let the politician who is 
without sin in the matter of veracity cast the first stone. 

Though the (Jorn Bill had now been carried through 
the House of Commons, the fate of the Government and 
all their measures still hung in the balance. A week after 
the great division they had a narrow escape. The Ten 
Hours Bill, which had proved so embarrassing to Peel and 
Graham a couple of years before, had been introduced 
again ; and though the whole weight of their influence was 
again thrown into the scale against it, they only succeeded 
in defeating it by a majority of ten.^ The bvilk of the 
Whigs and protectionists voted for the Bill against the 
Peelites and Manchester Liberals ; and this was so 
obviously the natural division of parties that the attempts 
were now renewed to give it permanent recognition. 

A nobleman, whose services have been since prematurely 
lost to the country, and whose excellent sense, imperturbable 

1 Lord Rosebery (Sir Robert Peel, p. 9) has a story of Peel's searching 
among his papers for Disraeli's letter late into the night of the affair in the 
House of Commons. The correspondence was first published long after 
Disraeli's death, in the late Mr. Parker's Life of Sir Robert Peel. 

2 203 to 193. 


temper, and knowledge of mankind, had for many years 
exercised a leading influence in the councils of the Whigs, 
and always to their advantage, was extremely anxious that 
by a reconstruction in this spirit an end should be put to 
that balanced state of parties which, if permitted to con- 
tinue, frustrated the practicability, and even the prospect, of 
a strong Government. What he wished particularly to accom- 
plish was, to see Lord George Bentinck in the new Whig 
Cabinet. But though this eminent individual conducted his 
negotiations under the happiest auspices, for Lord George 
Bentinck entertained for him great personal regard, and was 
united to his son by ties of very warm and intimate friendship, 
his object was not attained.^ 

The nobleman was Lord Bessborough,^ who was after- 
wards Russell's Lord Lieutenant, and who, in addition 
to the personal ties to which Disraeli alludes, was as 
an Irishman attracted by Bentinck's Irish policy. His 
kinsman, Lord Ponsonby, who, as we have seen, had 
conceived a high opinion of Disraeli's powers, had been 
labouring throughout the session for the formation of a 
strong Government on the basis of an understanding 
between Whigs and protectionists ; and through him 
Disraeli had for some time been in communication with 
Bessborough and his friends. The intrigue on the present 
occasion was hatched, according to Greville,^ at Palmerston 
House, and the plan was to transform the Corn Bill in the 
Lords by the introduction of a fixed duty. It was not 
yet realised how insuperable was the obstacle presented to 
this plan by Russell's engagements ; but Russell, when he 
heard of it, promptly summoned a meeting of the Whig 
peers at Lansdowne House, and told them that it was 
inconsistent with his personal and political honour. The 
result was reported to Hobhouse by Palmerston, who was 
present, as ' All unanimous against the Bill and all 
unanimous not to oppose it.' A few days later, on 
May 28, the Lords passed the second reading by the ample 
and unexpected majority of -47. 

When the Houses adjourned for Whitsuntide, the 

1 Lord George Bentinck. ch. 14. ^ xhe 4th Earl, 1781 to 1847. 

3 Under date June 1, 1846. 

394 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xu 

outlook, which at Easter had been so full of hope for 
the protectionists, had become very gloomy. Few now 
thought of defeating the Corn Bill, and it was even a 
question whether it would be possible to secure the defeat 
of the Government when the Corn Bill had become law. 
After their majority in the Lords, Ministers themselves 
began to be sanguine that they would escape for this 
session, and it was far from easy to see how they were to 
be caught. A direct vote of censure would probably not 
be supported by the Liberal wing of the Opposition ; and, 
as it would appear to be conceived in the interest of the 
Whigs, it would have the effect of driving back many 
of the rebellious Conservatives to the Ministerial fold. 
Other courses suggested presented similar difficulties. 

Thus it happened that, although for several weeks the 
persons most adroit in such affairs had been planning the 
overthrow of a Government which was only supported by 
one-sixth of the members of the House of Commons, the 
Whitsun recess had closed, and Parhament had again re- 
opened, without apparently any approximation to the means 
which were to accomplish their purpose. The Bill for the 
repeal of the Corn Laws could not be carried through the 
House of Lords until the end of June ; and until that measure 
was secured the Whigs and their Liberal allies were not pre- 
pared to strike. What opportunity would they have of dealing 
the blow after June ? There was no reason why the Govern- 
ment, having carried their measure, might not rapidly wind 
up the session and prorogue Parliament. Was it probable 
that at the end of another month, the Government having 
achieved their great object, those who were conspiring their 
overthrow would be richer in their resources or more felicitous 
in their expedients than at the present moment, when ven- 
geance, ambition, the love of office, and the love of change, 
all combined to advance and assist their wishes ? 

At length Disraeli succeeded in persuading Bentinck 
that the only chance lay in the course he had urged from 
the first — opposition to the Coercion Bill. Both Russell 
and Bentinck, as we have seen, had supported the first 
reading — Russell, as Disraeli tells us, ' entrapped by the 
precipitate acts and indiscreet admissions of his colleagues 
in the House of Lords,' and Bentinck, 'though warned 


against taking a course which was in itself foreign to his 
policy with respect to Ireland, seduced into the pro- 
ceeding by the irresistible temptation of securing delay 
in the progress of the Corn Bill.' Russell had since 
prepared for a retreat, artificially enough, by quarrelling 
with some of the vital clauses, and hinting that it would 
be fairer to oppose the second reading than to mutilate 
the Bill ; but Bentinck's position was much better. He 
had made it a condition of his support that the Govern- 
ment should show they were in earnest by pressing forward 
with the Bill, and nearly three months had now elapsed 
since it came down from the House of Lords, and it had 
only been advanced one stage. The second reading was 
to be taken on June 8, and the indications were that the 
Whigs would oppose. In this matter, of course, they 
would have the Irish and Radicals with them, and if a 
moderate number of protectionists could be induced to 
vote against the Bill, the defeat of the Government was 
certain. But at first the omens were unfavourable. 
Before the debate began, Bentinck, in a rapid council 
of his friends, suggested the plan of opposing the Bill, 
but Disraeli alone supported him. The others all thought 
the movement must fail, and bring discredit upon them. 
When the rejection was moved from the Whig benches, 
Bentinck, sitting with Disraeli by him, was still un- 
decided. At the end of the first speech he left Disraeli 
in charge, and went out to confer with one of his whips. 
When he came back, he reported : 

There are no means of calculating at this moment how our 
men will go, but he agrees with us. It may be perilous, but 
if we lose this chance the traitor will escape. I will make 
the plunge, and as soon as I can. There is a rumour that 
Lord John is hardly up to the mark. I suppose he has 
heard that our men will not vote against the Bill. Now, if 
I speak early and strongly, it will encourage him to be 

He made the plunge during the evening. In the course 
of a vehement speech, he reminded Peel that he was now 

396 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

what he had once proudly declared he would never consent 
to be — a Minister on sufferance, ' supported by none but 
his forty paid janissaries and some seventy other rene- 
gades, one-half of whom, while supporting him, expressed 
their shame of doing so.' They were told now by the 
Minister that it would have been base and dishonest in 
him if he had concealed his opinions after he had changed 
them ; but he remembered with sorrow when his illustrious 
relative Canning was ' chased and hunted to death ' 
by the right hon. baronet, who refused to support his 
Ministry on the ground that it was favourable to Catholic 
emancipation. That was in 1827 ; yet in 1829 he told 
the House of Commons that he had changed his opinions 
on that subject in 1825, and had communicated the 
change of opinion to Lord Liverpool. Did he not there- 
fore by his own verdict stand convicted of conduct that 
was base and dishonest ? 

This speech, of course, raised the temperature of the 
debate. Sidney Herbert at once followed in an acrimonious 
vein, and was foolish enough to offend both protectionists 
and Whigs by talk of secret negotiations, for which he had 
nothing better than vague rumour to offer as his warrant. 
By the end of the night the field of battle was fixed; 
the Government were pledged to stand by their measure ; 
Russell and Bentinck were both pledged to oppose it ; 
and a good many protectionists had been irritated into 
sympathy with a policy of which at first they were inclined 
to disapprove. For a moment it seemed even possible 
that the Government might fall before the Corn Bill was 
through the Lords ; but this the Whigs were determined 
to avoid, and it became the problem to postpone the 
critical division till the Corn Bill was safe. 

An episode that developed out of Bentinck's speech 
helped to fill up the time. When the Irish debate was 
resumed four days later, Peel spoke effectively, dwelling, 
in the tones of sorrowful indignation which he knew how 
to command, on the licence of Bentinck's language ; 
denying unequivocally the charge that in 1829 he had 


avowed a change of opinion in 1825, which he subsequently 
concealed in 1827 ; and concluding with the declaration 
to which allusion has already been made, that it was a 
foul calumny to suggest that he had wished to rob 
Russell of his right to settle the corn question. Bentinck 
seems to have made his reference to Peel's supposed avowal 
in 1829 on the spur of the moment, as to a fact that was 
verified by his own recollection and accepted by all 
who were familiar with the events of that time. He was 
not prepared for Peel's denial ; but he now turned to the 
records, and found that though the words of the speech 
of 1829, on which his case rested, did not appear in the 
report in Hansard, which admittedly had been revised, 
they appeared in The Times and in another publication 
called the Mirror of Parliament. Other corroborative 
evidence was also obtained, and as by the rules of the 
House Bentinck could not speak again in the Irish debate, 
he handed this material for a reply to Disraeli. 

Disraeli employed it in what Hobhouse calls a ' very 
powerful speech,' defending his friend and maintaining 
the charge against Peel in a manner ' exceedingly effec- 
tive.'^ On the subject of the Coercion Bill, he remarked 
that there had been no attempt to account for the fact 
that only now, in the month of June, were they asked 
to read it a second time. He insisted that even though 
Bentinck had changed his attitude on the Bill, there was 
a world of difference between his conduct and the conduct 
of the Minister who had drawn a parallel between the two. 
Bentinck had violated no confidence and betrayed no 
trust ; he had not with practised duplicity supplanted a 
candidate on the hustings by promising to vote for the 
very measure he was coming to Parliament to oppose. 
As a matter of fact, he had given the Government the most 
exact notice of what he intended to do. Coming to Peel's 
declaration that it was a foul calumny to suggest that he 
had wished to anticipate Russell in the settlement of the 
corn question, the speaker proved that the original 

ifiroughton, VI., p. 178. 

398 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

author of the so-called calumny was the First Minister 
himself. With regard to Bentinck's strong language, he 
had no difficulty in showing that similar language had 
been used 'by men of great light and leading, by the 
greatest statesmen, and orators that England ever pro- 
duced,' one passage he cited from Fox containing the 
very word ' janissaries ' applied exactly as Bentinck had 
applied it. 

The noble lord [he proceeded], the member for Lynn — I say 
it in his presence, for I know he is superior to any petty offence 
on the subject — the noble lord, if he has any characteristic 
more than another, it is his total absence of affectation and 
pretence. The noble lord never comes here but he always 
tells us that he does so most unwillingly, and that he has been 
pressed against his will into the position he now occupies. 
He always tells us : ' I am no ripe scholar, I am not a practised 
statesman, I am not an orator ; cannot you get someone else 
than me? I was bred a soldier; I never aspired to more 
than the reputation of a high-spirited and honourable English 
gentleman.' That is the character of the noble lord, and 
I believe he has attained his utmost wishes. I must say it 
not in his praise ; for I think, with his great abilities and his 
high station, it is a deficiency in such a man ; but the fact is 
that he is not ambitious. Anyone who knows him intimately, 
knows that the idea — and it is a legitimate idea — of his rising 
in the State is foreign to his nature, and never entered his 
mind. (Loud cheers.) The noble lord may have expressed 
himself with unusual warmth and vigour. With no pre- 
tensions, as he tells us, as an orator, speaking from the heart, 
I am not sure but the very vigour of his brave honesty is 
worth all the modern eloquence with which we are so often 
favoured, when we have all those pompous plausibilities, all 
those solemn adroitnesses, all those ' damnable iterations,' 
all those stale sophisms and solemn commonplaces, which 
are held up by the name of modern eloquence. 

He then produced the evidence in support of the 
Canning charge, and concluded : 

Sir, I think I have answered the elaborate attack of the 
right hon. gentleman on the noble lord — his attack on my 
noble friend's consistency, his attack on his Parliamentary 
language, his attack upon the imputation my noble friend 
made upon him as to the conduct of the right hon. gentleman 


to Mr. Canning. But I trust I have done more than vindicate 
my noble friend. I trust I have put in its true and intelligible 
light that mysterious passage which has so long perplexed the 
politicians of Europe, and which the right hon. gentleman 
on Friday night so elaborately explained for the benefit of 
the rising generation. I am not surprised that, closely con- 
nected with Mr. Canning as he was, ray noble friend should 
have expressed himself as he did. The feeling to which he 
gave utterance is shared by all who have had intercourse 
with Mr. Canning. I never saw Mr. Canning but once, when 
I had no expectation of being a member of this House, but I 
can recollect it but as yesterday, when I listened to the last 
accents — I may say the dying words — of that illustrious 
statesman. I can recollect the flash — the lightning flash — of 
that eye, and the power of that imperial brow. But, sir, 
when shall we see another Mr. Canning — a man who ruled 
this House as a man rules a high-bred steed, as Alexander 
ruled Bucephalus (a laugh), of whom it was said that horse 
and man were alike proud. I thank that hon. gentleman 
for his laugh. The pulse of the national heart does not beat 
as high as once it did. I know the temper of this House is 
not as spirited and brave as it was, nor am I surprised, when 
the vulture rules where once the eagle reigned. (Loud cheers.) 
The right hon. gentleman once said that Ireland was his great 
difficulty. I ask the right hon. gentleman why Ireland was 
his great difficulty, and whether, if he had acted with frank- 
ness to Mr. Canning in reference to his commimication with 
Lord Liverpool in 1825, Ireland would have been his great 
difficulty. This the right hon. gentleman must feel at the 
present moment, when we are about again to divide on an 
Irish question — a division which may be fatal to the endurance 
of his power — he must feel that it is a nemesis that dictates 
this vote and regulates this decision, and that is about to 
stamp with its seal the catastrophe of a sinister career. (Loud 
and continued cheering.) 

Peel, who, according to Hobhouse, was ' completely 
knocked down,' asked the House at the close to suspend 
judgment on the Canning charge; but a few days later 
he made his defence, and carried all before him. Never, 
says Disraeli, was there a more successful explanation. 
Its success, perhaps, was rather owing to the high char- 
acter of the man, and to his adroitness in handling the 
case than to the solid merits of his argument or its 
completeness as an answer to the evidence on the other 

too THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

side. He proved conclusively that the report in the Mirror 
of Parliament was founded on that in The Times^ so 
that it could not be cited as independent testimony ; but 
he left much unexplained. There is no doubt that a belief 
had been allowed to establish itself that Peel had used 
the words which Bentinck afterwards brought against 
him, that they had been referred to in the House of 
Commons, and that neither Peel nor his friends attempted 
to correct them ; equally, no doubt, that the words were 
out of correspondence with the facts, and that, whether 
spoken or not, they did not represent the speaker's in- 
tention. Disraeli himself sums up the incident with 'the 
full admission that, though Lord George Bentinck was 
perfectly justified in making the particular charge which 
he advanced, it was without real foundation.' We may 
feel a little sceptical on the point of Bentinck's justifica- 
tion. Justification there certainly was in the sense of a 
good deal of evidence ; but even if the charge had been 
proved, the taste and wisdom of raking up such a story in 
the middle of a great struggle on other issues twenty years 
later would have remained very doubtful. ^ 'In passing 
judgment on public men,' Disraeli himself had written 
with reference to this very question of the relations 
between Peel and Canning, ' it behoves us ever to take 
large and extended views of their conduct'; and one 
could wish that he and Bentinck had left the Canning 
charge alone. ^ Their best excuse is that they blundered 
into it without forethought, under guidance of the blazing 
passions of this 'sad, fierce session.' 

1 There is, however, no justification except pardonable bad temper for 
Peel's description of the affair, in a letter to the Queen ( Queen Victoria's 
Lettrrs, June 22, 1846), as ' a foul conspiracy concocted by Mr. Disraeli and 
Lord George Bentinck in the hope and belief that from the lapse of time 
or want of leisure in Sir Robert Peel to collect materials for his defence, or 
the destruction of documents and papers, the means of complete refutation 
might be wanting.' Bentinck, who was mainly responsible, certainly 
believed the charge ; and whatever we may think of his judgment, he was, 
if possible, more incapable of an act of deliberate baseness than even Peel 

" Disraeli seems to have had some such feeling as this himself when he 
dissuaded Bentinck, six months later, from reopening the question on some 
fresh evidence that was forthcoming. See Lord Georye Bentinck, oh. 15, 
where the story of the Canning episode is told at length. 


A few days after the termination of the Canning 
episode, on June 25, the Corn and Customs Bills finally 
passed the House of Lords; and on the same night ^ the 
division on the Coercion Bill was taken in the Commons. 
The result seems to have been doubtful up to the last 

The managers for the Government were certain of the 
support of a very large portion of the protectionist party. 
They were induced to believe that many of that party would 
avoid the division, but that very few indeed would bring 
themselves to vote against a Bill which they had already 
stoutly supported. The protectionists were very discreet 
and their tactics extremely close; the party was never better 
managed than on this division. 

A hundred protectionists voted with the Government, 
and about eighty abstained. Disraeli has given a famous 
epic catalogue of the others who defiled before the Minister 
to the hostile lobby — 'the Manners, the Somersets, the 
Bentincks, the Lowthers, and the Lennoxes'; and those 
gentlemen of England of whom a few years before he had 
been so proud of being the leader — 'Sir Charles Burrell, 
Sir William Jolliffe, Sir Charles Knightly, Sir John 
Trollope, Sir Edward Kerrison, Sir John Tyrrell, and Sir 
John Yarde Buller.' 

They trooped on: all the men of metal and large-acred 
squires, whose spirit he had so often quickened and whose 
counsel he had so often solicited in his fine Conservative 
speeches in Whitehall Gardens : Mr. Bankes, with a Parlia- 
mentary name of two centuries, and Mr. Christopher from 
that broad Lincolnshire which protection had created ; and 
the Mileses and the Henleys were there; and the Dun- 
combes, the Liddells, and the Yorkes; and Devon had sent 
there the stout heart of Mr. Buck — and Wiltshire, the pleasant 
presence of Walter Long. Mr. Newdegate was there, whom 
Sir Robert had himself recommended to the confidence of 
the electors of Warwickshire, as one of whom he had the 
highest hopes; and Mr. Alderman Thompson was there, 

1 This has often been described as an ' extraordinary coincidence,' but, 
as will be clear from the foregoing narrative, it was neither a coincidence 
nor extraordinary. 

VOL. II — 2d . .^ 



/ • 

402 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xu 

who, also through Sir Robert's selection, had seconded the 
assault upon the Whigs, led on by Sir John Buller. But the 
list is too long ; or good names remain behind. 

Over seventy protectionists followed Bentinck and 
Disraeli, and with the Whigs, the Radicals, and the 
Irishmen, they were more than sufficient. 

When Prince Metternich was informed at Dresden, with 
great ostentation, that the Emperor had arrived, ' Yes ; but 
without his army,' was the reply. Sir Robert Peel was still 
First Minister of England, as Napoleon remained Emperor for 
a while after Moscow. Each perhaps for a moment had in- 
dulged in hope. It is so difficult for those who are on the 
pinnacle of life to realise disaster. They sometimes contem- 
plate it in their deep and far-seeing calculations, but it is 
only to imagine a contingency which their resources must 
surely baffle ; they sometimes talk of it to their friends, and 
oftener of it to their enemies, but it is only as an insurance 
of their prosperity and as an offering to propitiate their 
nemesis. They never believe in it. 

The news that the Government were not only beaten, but 
by a majority so large as 73, began to circulate. An in- 
credulous murmur passed it along the Treasury bench. 

' They say we are beaten by 73 ! ' whispered the most im- 
portant member of the Cabinet in a tone of surprise to Sir 
Robert Peel. 

Sir Robert did not reply, or even turn his head. He 
looked very grave, and extended his chin, as was his habit 
when he was annoyed and cared not to speak. He began to 
comprehend his position, and that the Emperor was without 
his army. 

Cobden tried to persuade Peel to dissolve rather than 
resign, hailing him as the personification of the ' idea of 
the age,' and assuring him of success if he placed himself 
at the head of a great middle-class party. ' There must,' 
he wrote, 'be an end of the juggle of parties, the mere 
representatives of tradition, and some man must of 
necessity rule the state through its governing class. The 
Reform Bill decreed it ; the passing of the Corn Bill has 
realised it.' Peel was more alive to 'the serious risk of 
defeat ' if he essayed such an enterprise, and, weary 
besides, preferred to resign. He announced his resigna- 


tion on June 29 in a speech in the House of Commons 
which has often been quoted since with sympathy and 
approbation, but which was generally condemned at the 
time as an error of taste and judgment. He irritated 
the Whigs by a long commendation of the acts of his own 
Government, and he deeply offended his late followers 
by a glowing eulogy of Cobden, whom only six months 
before they had been asked to regard as such a danger to 
the State that he must be kept out of power even at the 
expense of a surrender of their convictions. There was, 
however, a certain dramatic fitness, in spite of the in- 
consistency, in his paying homage at such a moment to 
the real author of his policy. He concluded with the 
famous passage in which he talked of leaving a name that 
might be execrated by monopolists, but would sometimes, 
he hoped, be remembered with good-will in the abodes 
of those whose lot it was to labour, when they should 
recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and un- 
taxed food, the sweeter because it was no longer leavened 
by a sense of injustice. 

Peel was overthrown, but his policy prevailed. In its 
origin it was not suggestive either of foresight or of cir- 
cumspection, but the stars in their courses fought for it. 
The great development of steam and railways that was 
proceeding when it was adopted, and the gold discoveries 
in California and Australia that soon followed, led to a 
mighty growth of national prosperity with which the 
new system from the first became identified in the public 
mind; and the period of almost continuous war that 
presently began, and lasted till the seventies, long con- 
cealed its chief weakness by postponing the injury to 
English agriculture which Disraeli and his friends had 
predicted. Thus favoured by fortune, the new fiscal 
system became firmly established, and England has now 
been faithful to it for two generations. It was long 
almost a heresy to attempt even to criticise it, but that 
day is past. We can see now that a statesman of wider 
vision than Peel — such a statesman as Disraeli if he had 

404 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xn 

had the position and influence — might have done all that 
was needed in 1846 in the interest of English industry 
and the town population, while safeguarding our agri- 
culture against the disasters that overtook it in the last 
quarter of the nineteenth century ; that he might have 
settled the corn question, not, as Peel did, by 'a precip- 
itate and violent scheme,' but while maintaining the 
continuity of national policy and preserving what was best 
in the traditions of the old commercial system. Cobden 
and his school were devoid of the historic sense, and when 
Peel fell under their influence he broke completely with 
the past. Breaking with the past, he lost control of the 
future. It was not he who committed us to the industrial 
line of growth, but it was he who committed us apparently 
past recall. The repeal of the Corn Laws was the first 
decisive step in that policy of sacrificing the rural life of 
England to a one-sided and exaggerated industrial develop- 
ment which has done so much to change the English 
character and the English outlook, and which it may not 
impossibly be the business of subsequent generations to 
endeavour to retrace. 

Up to a certain point Peel's policy in the forties was 
a natural and legitimate development of what had 
gone before, and a development in the direction of real 
free trade. Up to that point he was supported by 
Disraeli ; but when he abandoned Adam Smith and Pitt 
and Huskisson, and leagued himself with Cobden, 
Disraeli deserted him. Disraeli's views on trade were 
liberal from the first, and remained liberal to the end, 
but he never became, like Peel, the slave of a formula. 
He is the one conspicuous statesman of that generation, 
it might almost indeed be said, or of the two generations 
that followed, who, as I have tried to make clear, kept 
his mind free on the question of the tariff, realised its 
essentially concrete and practical character, and sought 
guidance in history and a comprehensive survey of the 
commerce of his day. He perceived and pointed out 
the huge miscalculations on which Cobden and Peel 


were basing their system of free imports, and in spite of 
which it has prospered. He knew there would be a great 
development of oversea production to overwhelm our 
agriculture, and he knew that other nations would never 
voluntarily acquiesce in our insular ideal of being the 
workshop of the world, and throw open their ports in 
obedience to our example. Nor, when he refused to be 
blinded by the fanaticism of free imports, did he pay any 
tribute to the fanaticism of protection. Throughout the 
great controversy he saw the issue steadily and saw it 
whole, saw it above all in its political bearings, and never 
deviated to the right or to the left from the middle course 
which his judgment had prescribed. In all his speeches 
on the subject it would be liard to point to two sentences 
which are inconsistent with each other either in the letter 
or in the spirit. If Peel had taken Disraeli for his guide, or, 
indeed, if he had only continued on the lines on which he 
began and on which Disraeli would have supported him, 
he might have identified his name with a system of free 
trade of which, after the lapse of two generations, the 
United Kingdom would not have been the solitary 
adherent among the nations of the world. 

It is said, indeed, that if Disraeli had been taken into 
the Government in 1841 he would never have turned 
against Peel. That may be true, for the whole course of 
events would then have been different ; but that it is true 
in any sense discreditable to Disraeli is the merest 
affectation. If his character had stood higher, nothing 
would ever have been heard of the particular charge 
implied. I have set forth with some minuteness the 
sequence of events from the beginning of the Peel Parlia- 
ment as it touches the question, and the reader can judge 
for himself. Disraeli supported the Peel Government for 
two years after his exclusion ; he diverged from it first 
on a clear question of principle and under pressure from 
his constituents ; and he only entered on a course of 
systematic opposition when it had become manifest that 
on the one hand Ministers were drifting away from the 

406 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

principles on which they had come into power, and which 
he himself had upheld, and on the other that they had 
established an ostracism against him, and were deter- 
mined to deprive him of a field for the exercise of his 
genius. He was conscious of great political gifts, of 
seeing deeper and farther than the mediocrities, ' sublime ' 
or simple, by whom he was surrounded. Was he tamely 
to submit to the prejudices of men who had no re- 
markable preeminence of intellect or vision, and who 
were now passing under the influence of a school of 
political thought against which his whole career is a 
protest and a struggle ? If he had so allowed himself to 
be effaced, he would only have been a weaker, hardly a 
better, man. He did nothing that has not been done 
with far less justification by statesmen of the highest 
character in every age and country. If his revolt against 
the Government differed from a thousand other political 
incidents of the same order which we except as a matter 
of course, the difference was not in motive ; it was in a 
certain absence of cant and virtuous pretence which was 
peculiar to himself, in the patience and self-restraint with 
which he waited for the appropriate moment, the discern- 
ment and daring with which he seized it when it came, 
the genius with which his warfare was conducted, and 
the overwhelming success by which it was attended. 

The measure for the repeal of the Corn Laws has been 
canonised by English opinion, and the story of the events 
that led up to its passage has more often than not been 
told by men who can see only wisdom and virtue on the 
side of its advocates, wickedness, or at the best folly, on 
the side of its opponents. Coming up for trial with an 
indifferent reputation before such a court, Disraeli has 
been judged with censorious harshness, whereas Peel, 
with a friendly jury and a good reputation, has been let off 
too lightly. We have been asked to recognise in Peel an 
example of noble self-sacrifice postponing to the call of 
duty the luxury of a merely selfish consistency ; in Disraeli 
an example of inconsistency equally or more flagrant, and 


sinning against the light for the gratification of personal 
malice. This judgment may now be seen to stand in 
need of revision; on the face of it, indeed, it is essentially 
shallow. Anyone can feel the implicit drama of the struggle 
between the two men, and there can be no great drama 
with the right all on one side. Here, at all events, the 
right was divided, and the struggle inevitable — inevitable, 
that is to say, if Peel was to be Peel and Disraeli Disraeli. 
On the question of consistency from the political point of 
view, enough perhaps has been said to show that the 
advantage is not on the side of Peel; and even from the 
moral standpoint some may now feel that in these trans- 
actions at least he has no marked superiority over his 
antagonist. Disraeli certainly was no moral hero, but 
Peel's claims to be so regarded are not most wisely based 
on his dealings with the Corn Laws. Disraeli's falsehood 
in the House of Commons stands, of course, against him, 
and helps to give a colour to the worst interpretations 
his enemies can place on his character and motives. 
Morally Peel was incapable of an error such as that ; 
but with his furtive and unstable mind, his remarkable 
powers of self-deception, and his debater's instinct for 
the merely specious as an efficient substitute for the 
truth, he was very far from being a pattern of straight- 
forwardness and candour. There is not only a moral 
but an intellectual integrity, and in the intellectual virtue 
Peel was as much the inferior of Disraeli as in the moral 
he was his superior. 

When he had once decided to strike, Disraeli struck 
very hard, but, if the prejudice had not been against 
him and on the side of Peel, few would say unfairly. The 
weapons of ridicule and sarcasm which he mainly employed 
were those which were best fitted to penetrate the armour 
of oily evasion in which his antagonist had encased him- 
self, and they were employed with deadly precision ; but 
except possibly in the Canning episode, where he was not 
the prime mover, the attacks did not transgress the bounds 
of taste and judgment. And though Disraeli could be 


408 THE OVERTHROW OF PEEL [chap, xii 

ruthless and rarely failed to exact a penalty for injuries 
that were done him, he was free from mean rancour 
and he knew how to spare the fallen. When his object 
was accomplished, the Government overthrown, the 
organised hypocrisy at length swept away, and a path 
cleared for his own ambition and the triumph of his own 
ideas, he held his hand and struck no more. From the 
moment that he had succeeded in driving Peel from office, 
he never uttered another offensive word against him. 




Page 150 


The writer of this memorandum has observed with deep 
attention the characters and circumstances in France which 
exercise an influence on the relations between the two 
countries. He has that knowledge of the actors and motives 
of the political world of England which years of thought and 
action and intimate intercourse with the chiefs of parties 
can alone give ; and he cannot resist the conviction that the 
system at present pursued for the purpose of maintaining the 
connexion between the two countries is one which must 
inevitably terminate in disaster and failure. 

Unquestionably the genius of a great Prince, eminently 
fertile in resource and strengthened by an unprecedented 
experience of life, may for a long time baffle the catastrophe. 
But what is the consequence of this policy ? The energies 
of the founder of the dynasty are wasted in acts hostile to 
the popularity of the dynasty. The English connexion, 
instead of consolidating the throne, which was its original 
intent and is its natural bias, menaces and enfeebles it. 
Stripped of a thousand circumstances which lay (sic) upon 
the surface and distract the superficial, this is the real point 
which should occupy the thought of every friend of the King, 
and I will add of every friend of France and England. 

The present system, then, entails upon the two countries a 
general condition of frigid and professional connexion broken 
by episodes of suspicion, misconception, irritation, courtly 
phrases, adroit diversions, little acts of concerted courtesy, 
and war. 

Before the writer details the measures which in his opinion 
might revive and permanently retain the feelings that existed 



between the two countries ten years since, and establish between 
France and England a genuine and hearty alliance, he would 
make one observation on the feelings of the two nations in 
respect to this great result. 

He perceives that in France the enlightened classes are 
generally in favor of the English connexion, but that the 
great body of the nation is hostile to England. In England, 
on the contrary, the great body of the people is friendly to 
France, while the superior classes look to France with no 
cordiality. Yet there is reason to believe that in neither 
instance is this hostility the result of the ancient prejudices 
of the two nations. In England it is habit ; in France it is 
passion. The reason of the class in England must therefore 
"be instructed, the vanity of the class in France must therefore 
be soothed. 

In the opinion of the writer there are three measures which 
would materially tend to revive, and if assisted by a judicious 
policy on the part of France would absolutely and speedily 
restore, a genuine and hearty alliance between the two 

1st. On the very night that the English Parliament meets an 
influential member who has the ear of the House should give 
public notice of his intention of inviting the consideration 
of the House of Commons on the earliest occasion to the state 
of the relations between England and France. 

It should be observed that in the whole course of the last 
twelve eventful years, during which England has witnessed her 
foreign system changed and reconstructed, the intimate alli- 
ance between herself and France announced one day as the 
only basis of her policy, and the English Minister who had 
avowedly entered into wars to baffle Russian intrigue, and 
promoted men to embassies for having written anti-Russian 
pamphlets, repudiating on another day that same French 
alliance and acting with Russia in violation of France, — during 
all these long years of confused and contradictory conduct, 
not a single debate has ever taken place on the principles on 
which the foreign policy of England should be established.^ 
The Parliament of England, absorbed in domestic struggles, 
has been left with respect to its foreign affairs without a prin- 
ciple to guide and without knowledge to enlighten it. But 
these domestic struggles are over, and a new generation has 
entered the House of Commons to add its quota to the great 
aggregate of national [illegible]. 

^ The memorandum is given from a very rough draft, and this Thucy- 
didean sentence is the best that can be made of an excessiyely blotted 


A clear and comprehensive statement at this moment in 
the English Parliament of the great question of the English 
and French alliance would produce a marvellous effect. It 
would teach men to think. It would give principles to that 
vast majority who must be led. It would open new considera- 
tions of paramount interest. It would give a train to expres- 
sions which would touch the heart of the French people. It 
would afford an opportunity to a great section of the Opposi- 
tion to repudiate the late policy of Lord Palmerston. It 
would be a signal to England that a new era was at hand. It 
would above all force from the English Minister, not merely 
complimentary phrases, but a declaration in detail which 
would echo in every cabinet in Europe. 

2ndly. Previous to the meeting oi the English Parliament 
a party should be organised which in respect to the external 
policy of England should be systematically opposed to the 
Russian system. The Government of Sir Robert Peel is at 
this moment upheld by an apparent majority in the Commons 
of 90 members. It is known that among these 90 are between 
40 and 50 agricultural malcontents who, though not prepared 
to commence an active opposition, will often be absent on 
questions which, though not of \dtal, may yet be of great 
importance to the Minister. It is obvious, therefore, that 
another section of Conservative members, full of youth and 
energy and constant in their seats, must exercise an irresistible 
control over the tone of the Minister. Sympathising in general 
with his domestic policy, they may dictate the character of 
his foreign, especially if they appeal to a conviction which at 
the bottom of Sir R. Peel's heart responds to their own. 
Such a party would strengthen him against the menacing 
applications of M. de Brunow: it would soon dispel Lord 
Aberdeen's mystical hallucinations of German nationality. 

When the writer of this note states that such a party can 
be formed, he speaks with an absolute knowledge of his sub- 
ject. A gentleman has already been solicited to place himself 
at the head of a Parliamentary party which there is every 
reason to believe would adopt the views on the Foreign Policy 
of England referred to, a party of the youth of England, 
influenced by the noblest views and partaking in nothing of 
the character of a Parliamentary intrigue; and if he has not 
at once accepted an offer which it is known he esteems the 
greatest honor that he ever received, it is only because next 
to the responsibility of forming a Government is in his opinion 
that of leading a party. 

It is right to state that it is calculated that the leadership 
of a Parliamentary party in England involves an extra ex- 
penditure of a very great amount. This circumstance is 


mentioned only to show that no one would heedlessly con- 
template such a contingency. For no other purpose, for it 
would only express the common feeling of every English 
gentleman, were it stated, that if this expenditure were the 
sole qualification for the office there would be an universal 
rivalry to supply it. 

The third measure which the writer recommends is a com- 
prehensive organisation of the Press of England in favor of 
the French and English alliance. This power so vast, but the 
management of which is so frequently neglected and so gener- 
ally misunderstood even by English Ministers, is of itself, if 
skilfully conducted, capable of effecting great things ; but 
whenever it has chanced to be combined with a Parliamentary 
power its influence has invariably been irresistible. Great 
interests sensible of the power of the Press, and unable to 
analyse it, often appropriate to themselves the columns of a 
popular journal, and are surprised that the effect is not pro- 
portionate to their expectations. But a single journal, how- 
ever ably conducted, is only an organ. Recognised to be an 
organ, it ceases to be an authority. Its moral influence merges 
in its oflicial character. The monitor that counsels the people 
of England to view France with a glance of affection and confi- 
dence, to believe that the power and prosperity of France will 
secure the empire and increase the wealth of England, must 
speak in journals of every school of poltiics, and sound in every 
district. It is with a machinery of this description that the 
ideas of a single man, acting upon latent sympathies which 
only require development, soon become the voice of a nation. 
Independent of the extreme difficulty which most men 
must experience in effecting such an arrangement, many have 
been dissuaded from the attempt by the impression that the 
result could only be obtained by vast expenditure. This idea 
is completely erroneous. Thousands and tens of thousands, 
indeed, have sometimes been blunderingly thrown away on 
the mismanagement of a single organ, but the Press of England 
is not in a gross and general sense corrupt. The writer will, 
if desired, draw up a confidential note on the organisation of 
the Press, and furnish a plan which may be carried into 
practice. Indeed, if it cannot be put in practice without 
his aid, he will undertake its fulfilment. At all events he will 
consent, when the organisation has taken place, to exercise the 
same general supervision that Lord Palmerston now exercises 
over the anti-Gallic Press. 

These are the measures which, if carried into effect simul- 
taneously and with energy, would, in the opinion of the writer, 
materially tend to produce the great result desired by all those 


who believe that in the international union of France and 
England depend, not merely their material prosperity, but 
ultimately their existence as Powers of the first class. These 
plans may perhaps seem vast, but they are not visionary. 
They are, on the contrary, essentially practical. They are 
even to the minutest element necessary to their success digested 
and matured, and it is believed that the influence and intellect 
of an individual can at this moment carry them into effect. 



Abercromby, Speaker, 1, 5 
Aberdeen, Lord, 126, 174, 180, 248, 

311, 335, 340, 411 
Abinger, Lord, 47 
Adelaide, Mme., 152 
Afghanistan, war in, 61, 129, 149, 

Alarcos, 38, 64 
Albert, Prince, 91, 92 
Amelie, Queen of France, 152, 158 
Anson, Colonel, 249 
Anti-Corn-Law League, 102, 381 
Apponyi, Count, 151 
Argyll, Duke of, 182 
Arnold, Matthew, 300 
Ashley, Lord, 4, 61, 78, 187, 234, 372 
' Atticus ' letter, 108 
Attwood, Charles, 88 
Austin, Charles, 42 

Baden-Baden, 71 

Baillie, H. J., 128, 130, 167 

Bandiera, the brothers, 311 

Bankes, George, 21 

Baring, Henry, 14, 20 

Barnes, Mr. and Mrs., 20 

Barrot, M. and Mme. Adolphe, 158 

Basevi, George, 331 

Baudrand, General, 149, 156, 161 

Beaconsfield, Lord : see Disraeli, 

Beaufort, Duke of, 20 
Beaufremont, Prince de, 148 
Beaumont, Gustave de, 158 
'Bedchamber plot,' 58, 171 
Bentinck, Lord George, 4, 359 et seq., 

393, 398 
Bentinck, Life of Lord George — 

quoted, 306, 323, 333, 336, 341, 

348, 358, 373 et seq. 
Bcrnal, Ralph : see Osborne, Bernal 
Berryer, 147 
Berrys, Miss, 94 
Bessborough, Lord, 392 
Beyrout, 95 
Birmingham — Chartist riots, 84 ; 

local constabulary Bill, 85 
Blackstone, Mr., 55, 125 

Blessington, Lady, 130, 200 
Bolingbroke, Lord, 166, 170, 271, 276, 

296, 301 
Bowring, Sir John, 93, 131 
Brandes, Dr., 256 
Bright, John, 235, 330, 370 
Brougham, Lord, 18, 35, 46, 64 
Broughton, Lord, 3, 240, 330, 379, 

388, 397 
Bruce, Lord and Lady Ernest, 92, 96 
Buccleuch, Duke of, 182, 381 
Buchon, 150 
Buck, Mr., 401 
Buckingham, 2nd Duke of (Lord 

Chandos), 11, 22, 29, 47, 55, 60, 

61, 64, 124, 248, 320, 330 
Buller, Charles, 61, 135 
Bulwer, Henry, 73 
Bulwer, Sir Edward Lytton, 4, 35, 

90, 93, 183 
Burdett, Sir Francis, 4, 8, 66, 76 
Burke, Edmund, 229, 272, 297 
Burnet, Bishop, 283 
BurreU, Sir Charles, 401 

Cabinet, power of, 300 
Cambridge, Duchess of, 66 
Campbell, Lord, 3, 12, 305 
Campbell, Sir Hume, 96 
Campbell, Sir John : see Campbell, 

Canada — rebellion, 17 et seq.; 

United States and, 383 
Canadian Corn BOl, 144 
Canning, 278, 281, 288; Peel and, 

281, 313, 396 et seq. 
Canning, Sir Stratford, 4, 92 
Canterbury, 61 
Canterbury, Lord, 61, 73 
Capua, Prince of, 22 
Capua, Princess of, 21 
Carlyle, Thomas, 79 
Carrington, Lord, 48, 74 ; letter to, 

Carteret, 272, 301 
Cassel, 331 

Castellane, Comtesse de, 151 
Castlereagh, Lord, 243 




Cetto, Baron and Baroness de, 96 
Chabot, Count de, 151 
Chanibellan, Comte de, 148 
Chandos, Lord : see Buckingham, 

2nd Duke of 
Charles I., 172, 268 
Chartism, 64, 75 et seq., 250 et seq., 

Chasles, Philar^tc, 150 
Chesterfield, Lady, 49 
Children's Employment Commission, 

234, 250 
Christopher, Mr., 55, 401 
Clementine, Princesse, 152 
Cleveland, Duke of, 182 

Cobden, Richard, 102, 128, 135, 141, 

235, 266, 307, 319, 330, 362, 370, 

Cochrane, Alexander Baillie, 147, 163, 

'Ca?ur de Lion' — Disraeli contrib- 
utes to The Times under signature, 

Colburn, WilHam, 61, 199 
Collier, Jeremy, 55 
Collier, Payne, 55 
Coningsby, 183, 197 et seq., quoted, 

8, 14, 154, 195, 246, 267 et seq. 
Conservative party, 287 et seq., 310 

et seq. 
Consular service — reform, 126 
Conyngham, Lord Albert, 48, 74 
Cookesley, Rev. W. G., 202 
Copyright Bill (Talfourd's), 15, 26 
Cork, Lady. 92 
Corn Laws, 22, 55, 98, 106, 123, 134, 

264, 319 ; repeal, 334, 343 et seq., 

358 et seq., 392, 404 
Cousin, M., 149 
Cowley, Lord, 148, 340 
Cowley, Lady, 148 
Craig, Gibson, 6 
Craven, Mrs., 33 
Crimean War, 310 
Crockford's, 39, 253 
Croker, John Wilson, 201, 223, 226, 


Dannecker, 71 
Dardanelles, 180 
Darlington, Lord, 20 
Dawson, Mrs., 28, 125, 230 
Decazes, Due, 151, 152, 338 
Delane, John T., 168 
De L'Isle. Lord, 21, 70, 96 
Denman, Lord, 44 

Derby, Lord : see Stanley, Lord 

de Ros, Lord, 61 

de Rothesay, Stuart, 20 

d'Eyncourt, Miss Tennyson, 148 

Dickens, Charles, 184, 231 

Disraeli, Benjamin — enters Parlia- 
ment, 1 ; maiden speech, 7 ; con- 
tributes to The Times, 17; visits 
Maidstone, 24, 34 ; courtship, 36 
et seq.; bribery charges during 
Maidstone election : Disraeli's 
letter and proceedings at Court of 
Queen's Bench, 42 ; ill-health, 48 ; 
'Lselius' letters published in The 
Times, 59; marriage, 67; analysis 
of character by Mrs. Disraeli, 68; 
Continental tour, 71 ; invited to 
Opposition conference by Peel, 
89 ; ' Atticus ' letter published in 
The Times, 108; elected M.P. for 
Shrewsbury, 113 ; first appearance 
of crest, 114; financial difficulties, 
115; excluded from Peel's Minis- 
try: correspondence with Peel, 117, 
245, 389 ; visit to Normandy, 123 ; 
relations with Peel Ministry, 144; 
visits Paris, 146 et seq.; Young 
England movement, 162 et seq., 
194, 219 ; correspondence with Peel 
on omission to send letter request- 
ing attendance at Parliament, 187 ; 
Coningsby published, 119; Parlia- 
mentary career to 1844 discussed, 
228; divergence from Peel Minis- 
try, 230 ; visits Shrewsbury, 243 ; 
visits Manchester, 246 ; Sybil 
published, 251 ; development of 
the Tory idea, 265 et seq. ; attacks 
on Peel, 303 et seq., 350, 358 et seq., 
382 ; Parliamentary manner de- 
scribed, 315, 322; visits Cassel, 
331; visits Paris, 332 et seq.; 
associated with Lord George Ben- 
tinck in forming third party, 359; 
ill-health, 372 ; relations with Peel 
discussed, 404 

Speeches — at Maidstone, 16 ; in 
Court of Queen's Bench on letter 
respecting Maidstone election bri- 
bery charges, 44 ; at Shrewsbury, 
140, 144, 231, 244; at Manchester, 
184, 247 ; at Bingley, 247 

Speeches, Parliamentary — 

maiden speech, 7 ; Afghan War, 
160 ; Birmingham Constabulary 
Bill, 85; Chartism, 64, 75, 86; 



Coercion Bill, 397; Consular re- 
form, 126; Copyright Bill, 15, 26; 
Corn Laws, 22, 107, 133, 319, 362, 
382 ; proposed Education Board, 
62; foreign policy, 131, 136; 
Irish Corporations Bills, 35, 57 ; 
Irish policy : Arms Bill, 175, 188 ; 
Maine boundary question, 160 ; 
Maynooth BUI, 324 ; Mazzini : in- 
terception of letters, 311, 313; 
Ministry (Melbourne), 112, 116; 
Ministry (Peel), 241, 311 et seq.; 
350, 397; Mott case, 236 ; Roebuck, 
369; Stockdale case, 89; Turkey 
and Russia, 179 

Works — Alarcos, 38, 64 ; Con- 
ingshy, 183, 197 et seq.; quoted, 8, 
14, 154, 195, 246, 267 et seq.; 
Endymion quoted, 54, 96, 110, 
146, 163, 334 ; Life of Lord George 
Bentinck quoted, 306, 323, 333, 341, 
348, 358, 373 et seq.; Sybil; or, 
the Two Nations, 250 et seq.; 
quoted, 59, 78, 84, 267 et seq.; 
Tancred quoted, 95 

Disraeli, Mrs. Benjamin (see also 
Lewis, Mrs. Wyndham), 183, 243, 
252 ; marriage, 67 ; analysis of 
character, 68 ; incident with Prince 
Louis Napoleon, 93 ; letter to Sir 
R. Peel, 118; letter to Sarah 
Disraeli, 249 ; Sybil dedicated, 251 

D'Israeli, Isaac (father), 14, 25, 73, 
200, 318 

Disraeli, James (brother), 24 

Disraeli, Sarah, 24, 200, 334 

D'Orsay, Count, 31, 39, 48, 74, 90, 
115, 130 

Douro, Lord, 20, 60 

Drummond, Thomas, 3 

Duncombe, Thomas, 4, 55, 250, 311, 

Dupin 149 

Education Board, proposed, 62 
Egerton, Lord Francis, 19, 30, 

Eliot, Lord, 90, 129 
EUenborough, Lord, 20, 160, 174 
Endymion — quoted, 54, 97, 110, 146, 

163, 334 
Esterhazy, Prince, 67 
Evans, John, 36 
Evelyn, Mrs., 183 
Eversley, Lord, 1, 92 
Exmouth, Lord, 25, 32 

VOL. II — 2e 

Faber, Frederick, 170 

Factory Legislation, 78, 233, 250, 266. 

Fector, Mr., 32, 42 

Fergusson, Cutlar, 23 

Ferrand, William Busfield, 195, 235, 
243, 247, 369 

Fielden, John, 75, 80, 85 

Fitzclarence, Adolphus, 21 

Fitzgerald, Lord, 63 

Follett, Sir W., 48, 92 

Foreign poHcy, 131, 136, 150, 159, 
178, 339, 409 

Forester, 2nd Lord, 48 

Forester, 3rd Lord, 14 

Fox, Colonel, 151 

France — British relations, 95, 150, 
159, 271, 339; Disraeli's memo- 
randum to Louis Philippe, 150, 
409 ; letter to Lord Palmerston, 338 

Frazer's Magazine — on Disraeli's 
Parliamentary manner, 315 

Free trade, 106, 133, 319, 362 

Fremantle, Sir Thomas, 55, 125 

General elections (1837), 8; (1841), 

George I., 270 
George II., 270 
George III., 270, 274 
Germany, 340, 411 
Gersdorf, Baron, 96 
Gladstone, Mr. W. E., 2, 123, 139, 

143, 193, 202, 310, 322, 337, 347, 

372 ; resigns from Peel Ministry, 

324 ; joins reconstructed Peel 

Ministry, 345 
Gloucester, Duchess of, 182 
Goderich, Lord : see Ripon, Lord 
Goldsmith, 147 
Goulburn, H., 3 
Graham, Sir J., 3, 29, 135, 177, 181. 

184, 232, 249, 311, 335, 364 
Gramont, Due de, 147 
Gramont, Duchesse de, 147, 154 
Granby, Lord, 243, 379 
Grant, Sir A., 96 
Gran\'ille, 2nd Lord, 4, 6 
Grenville, Lady A., 30, 60 
Greville, Charles, 225, 389, 393 
Grey, Lord (Lord Howick), 87, 92, 

242, 311, 343, 381 
Grey, Sir George, 19, 86, 330 
Grisi, 61 
Grote, G., 4 
Guizot, M., 151, 156, 338 



HaUam. H., 71, 193 

HamUton, Lord Claud, 92, 126 

Hanover, King of, 182 

Harcourt, Sir William, 297 

Hardiuge, Sir Henry, 3, 20, 23, 135 

Hardwickc, Lady, 28 

Hardw-icke, 4th Lord, 28 

Hardy, Gathorne, 248 

Harness, William, 96 

Hayward, A., 96 

Herbert, Sidney, 129, 319, 335, 364, 

Herrics, J. C, 3, 23 
Hertford, Lord, 127, 130, 201 
Hervey, 'Lord,' 340 
Hobhouse, Cam : see Broughton, 

Hodgson, R., 128 
Holland — King abdicates, 95 
Holland, Lord. 95 
Hook, Theodore, 33, 61 
Hope, Mr. and Mrs. Adrian, 96, 147 
Hope, Beresford, 129 
Hope, Henry, 14, 147, 194, 197, 199, 

225, 239 
Horner, Mr., 307, 385 
Houghton, Lord, 64, 122, 129, 168, 

195, 200, 247 
Howard, Philip, 136 
Howick, Lord : see Grey, Lord 
Hugo, Victor, 159 
Humboldt, Baron Alexander, 151, 

Hume, Joseph, 4, 32, 135, 271 
Huskisson, 101, 123, 134, 278 

Iddesleigh, Lord, 252 

Income-tax, 130, 132, 264 

India, 131, 160 

Inglis, Sir Robert, 56 

Ireland — Corporations Bill, 35, 57 ; 

administration, 172, 188, 323; 

Young Ireland movement, 172 ; 

Arms Bill, 173 ; potato famine, 

334; 'Coercion' Bill, 373, 394, 401 
Irving, John, 203 

James II., 270 

Jersey, Lady, 29, 261 

Jersey, Lord, 29 

Jews — disabilities, 7, 211; Jewish 

genius, 212 
JoUiffe, Sir William, 401 

Kerrison, Sir Edward, 401 
Knightly, Sir Charles, 401 

Labouchere, H., 225 

'Lselius' letters, 59 

Lamartine, 158 

Lansdowne, Lady, 240 

Lansdowne, 3rd Lord, 240, 301 

Leighton, Sir Baldwin, 114 

Leveson, Lord : see Granville, Lord 

Lewis, Mr. W^yndham, 5; death, 22 

Lewis, Mrs. Wyndham, 36 et seq.; 
Disraeli's letters to, 17, 24, 27, 34, 
38, 40, 47, 58, 63; letters to 
Disraeli, 53 ; marriage, 67 (see also 
Disraeli, Mrs.) 

Ligne, Prince de, 153 

Lincoln, Lord, 61, 372 

Liverpool, Lord, 133, 276 et aeq., 

Lloyd, Mr. Jones, 307 

Lockhart, J. G., 65 

Londonderry, Lady, 29, 32, 34, 261 

Londonderrj% Lord, 29, 247 

Long, Walter, 401 

Louis Napoleon, Prince, 93 

Louis Philippe, King of the French, 
149, 152 et seq., 179, 307, 332, 
337 et seq.; Disraeli's memoran- 
dum, 150, 409 

Lyndhurst, Lady, 20, 182 

Lyndhurst, Lord, 5, 29, 31, 58, 194, 
200 ; on Disraeli's maiden speech, 

Lyttelton, 4th Lord, 202 

Macaulay, Lord, 3, 87, 174, 192, 223, 
235, 296, 330, 348, 354, 388 

Macdonald, James, 195 

Macdonald, Julia, 39 

Macnaghten, Sir William — murder, 
of, 120 

Macready, William Charles, 38, 65 

Maginn, Dr., 28 

Mahon : see Stanhope, 5th Lord 

Maidstone — Parliamentary repre- 
sentation : see under Parliament 

Maine boundary dispute, 160 

Manners, Lord John, 128, 163, 246, 
296, 311, 330; letters to, 197, 387; 
and Corn Laws, 346 

March, Lord, 388 

Marlborough, Duke of, 182 

Marmier, Duchesse de, 148 

Mauguin, 147 

Maule, Fox, 85 

Maynooth BUI, 322 

Mazzini — letters intercepted, 311 

Mecklenburg, Grand-Duke of, 182 



Melbourne, Lord, 2, 54, 344; Min- 
istry resigns, 58 

Milnes, Richard Monckton: see 
Houghton, Lord 

Ministry (Grey), 285 

Ministry (Liverpool), 277 

Ministry (Melbourne), 7, 54, 86, 92, 
97, 103, 108; 'Bedchamber plot,' 
58, 171 ; resignation, 116 

Ministry (Peel), 117, 124, 140, 174, 
230 et seq., 358 et seq.; Disraeli 
excluded : correspondence with 
Peel, 118, 244, 389; Disraeli's 
attitude, 144, 178, 230 et seq., 304 
et seq. ; Gladstone resigns, 324 ; 
Corn Law crisis : resigns, 337 ; 
reconstructed, 343 ; resigns, 401 

Mole, Comte, 152, 156, 159 

Molesworth, Sir William, 4, 6 

Monarchy, 170, 292, 298 

Monteagle, Lord, 3, 70, 85 

Montefiore, Mrs., 61, 73, 147 

Morgan, Lady, 56 

Morgan, Sir Charles, 56 

Morley, Lady, 225 

Morley, Lord, 252, 265 ; Life of Cob- 
den, quoted, 136, 266 

Morpeth, Lord, 3 

Mott case, 236 

Munich, 72 

Munster, Lord, 92 

Murchison, Sir Roderick, 21 

Murphy, Serjeant, 193 

Nation, 172 

Nemours, Duke and Duchess of, 

Newdegate, Mr., 401 
Newport, Lord, 145 
Nugent, Lord, 249 

Oastler, Richard, 85 

O'Brien, Augustus Stafford, 129, 195, 

O'Brien, Smith, 8, 173, 378, 380 
O'Connell, Daniel, 4, 8, 91, 188, 308, 

323, 371, 377, 388 
O'Connor, Feargus, 251 
Odelli, M., 151 
Odilon-Barrot, 147, 158 
Oregon question, 332 
Orleans, Duke of, 147, 153 
Osborne, Bernal, 117, 193 
Ossulston, Lord, 23, 90, 125 
Ossuna, Duke of, 31 
Oxford movement, 170 

Paget, Alfred, 56 

Pakington, Sir John, 19 

Palmerston, Lord, 2, 67, 95, 135, 
330, 376, 393, 410; letter from, 
67 ; Disraeli attacks foreign policy, 
128, 150; Disraeli reassures Louis 
Philippe as to Palmerston's policy : 
correspondence with Palmerston, 
338; speech on Corn Laws, 372; 

Panmure, Lord : see Maule, Fox 

Paris, 73, 147 el seq., 332 

Parliament — notable members (1837), 
2; Disraeli's maiden speech, 8; 
Maidstone election : bribery alle- 
gations : Disraeli's letter to Press 
and proceedings at Court of 
Queen's Bench, 42 ; Shrewsbury 
election, 112, 134 

Pasquier, Baron, 152 

Peel, Colonel Jonathan, 379 

Peel, Sir Robert, 5, 57, 104, 164, 177, 
248, 298, 304 et seq., 358 et seq.. 
412; and Disreli's maiden speech, 
11; 'Lcelius' letter quoted, 60; 
invites Disraeli to Opposition 
conference, 89 ; Ministry formed : 
Disraeli excluded : correspondence 
with Disraeli, 117 et seq.; attack 
on Palmerston, 135 ; and Corn 
Laws, 104, 143, 334 et seq.; and 
Young England movement, 173; 
on Disraeli's application for post 
for brother, 185 ; omits to send 
letter requesting Disraeli's attend- 
ance at Parliament, 185 ; Disraeli's 
divergence from Peel Ministry, 
228 et seq.; Coningsby quoted, 215, 
278, 287 et seq. ; Sybil quoted, 260, 
263; relations with Canning, 281, 
313, 396 et seq.; Disraeli's attacks 
on, 305, 312 et .seq., 350, 358 et 
seq., 382 ; Disraeli's Life of Lord 
George Bentinck quoted, 306, 323, 
348, 358, 373 et seq.; Ministry 
resigns : reconstructed, 337 et seq. : 
reconciliation with Cobden, 370 ; 
on Disraeli's alleged application 
for post in Ministry, 389 ; Ministry 
resigns, 402 

Peel, Lady, 29, 183 

Pembroke, Lord, 147 

Perceval, Mr., 276, 322 

Persiani, 61 

Phillips, Ambrose Lisle, 195, 208 

Pitt, William, 133, 171, 207, 271, 296, 



Poniatowsky, Prince, 31, 33 
Pousonby, Lord, 225, 393; letter 

from, 387 
Poor Law (1834), 78, 102, 231 
Potato faniiue (1845), 334 
Powerscourt, Lady, 21 
Powerscourt, Lord, 64, 90 
Powlett, Lady William, 35 
Pozzo di Borgo, Count, 20 
Praed, Mackworth, 4, 55 
Price, Dr., 275 

Protectionist party, 359 et seq. 
Prussia, Princess of, 200 
Punch cartoon (infant Hercules), 221 
Puritanism, 189 
Pyne, William, 115 

Quin, Michael Joseph, 13 

Ramsay, Lord, 5 

Reay, Lord, 20 

Redesdale, 2nd Lord, 21 

Reform Act (1832), 76 et seq., 103, 
216, 284 et seq., 298 

Regnier, Baron, 151 

Reschid Pasha, 158 

Retz, Cardinal de, 304 

Rice, Mr. Spring : see Monteagle, 

Richmond, 182 

Ripon, Lord, 3, 123, 282 

Robinson : see Ripon, Lord 

Rockingham, Lord, 273 

Roebuck, J. A., 4, 19, 369 

Rogers, S., 92 

RoUe, Lord, 32, 33 

Romilly, Sir Samuel, 307 

Rothschild, Sir Antony de, 73, 147, 

Rothschild, Baron Lionel de, 240; 
letter to, 332 

Rothsaiukl^Jiaroness Lionel de, 20 

Rothschild, Baron Solomon de, 151, 

Rothschild, Mme. de, 183 

Rous; A d T iiha l, 379 

Rowton, Lord, 304, 379 

Russell, Lady John, 240 

Russell, Lord John, 2, 6, 23, 83, 
240, 286, 318, 326 et seq., 376, 
393; Edinburgh letter, 335; fail- 
ure to form Ministry 1845), 343 

Russia — Empress Alexander of, 29 ; 
British relations, 160 ; and Turkey, 

Rutland, Duke of, 246 

Sablonouska, Countess : see Zavo- 
douska. Countess 

Sacheverell, Dr., 238 

Sadler, Michael, 78 

St. Aulaire, 183, 341 

Sainte-Beuve, 150 

Salisbury, Lady, 21 

Sandon, Lord, 181, 241 

Sardinia, Queen of, 153 

Scott, Sir Walter, 164 

Scrope, Poulett, 56 

Scrope, William, 56 

Sebastiani, General, 151 

Servia — insurrection, 178 

Shaftesbury, 1st Lord, 283 : see also 
Ashley, Lord 

Shaw-Lefevre : see Eversley, Lord 

SheU, R. L., 4, 13 

Shelburne, Lord, 133, 271, 286, 301 

Shrewsbury — Parliamentary repre- 
sentation : see under Parliament 

Sidmouth, Lord, 91 

Smith, Robert : see Carrington, Lord 

Smith, Sydney, 225, 387 

Smith, Vernon, 135 

Smythe, George Sydney : see Strang- 
ford, 7th Lord 

Social reform, 75 et seq., 231, 265 

Society of French History — Disraeli 
elected member, 153 

Somerset, Lord Granville, 16, 20 

Somerville, Mrs., 21 

Soult, Marshal, 33 

Stanford, Sir Charies, 213 

Stanhope, Lady, 21 

Stanhope, 5th Lord, 6, 21, 193 

Stanley, Lord, 2, 29, 144, 226, 237, 242, 
286, 335; and Disraeli, 12, 122; 
'Parliamentary Rupert,' 236; de- 
clines to join reconstructed Peel 
Ministry, 343 

Stationers' Hall, 248 

Stephen, Sir Leslie, 198, 219, 222 

Stepney, Lady, 225 

Sterling, Edward, 193 

Steriing, John, 199 

Stockdale case, 47, 89 

Strangford, 6th Lord, 14, 90, 246 

Strangford, 7th Lord, 121, 126, 162, 
200, 235, 246, 250, 296, 317, 330, 
337 ; Historic Fancies, 243 

Stuart, Dudley, 128 

Stuttgart, 71 

Sudeley, Lord, 56 

Sugar duties, 239 

Sugden, Sir Edward, 3, 183 



Sybil; or, The Two Nations 250 et, 
seq. ; quoted, 59, 78, 84, 267 et seq. 

Syria — expulsion of Mehemet Ali's 
Egyptians, 95 

Talfourd, Serjeant, 15, 26 

Taniworth manifesto, 289 

Tancred — quoted, 95 

Tankerville, Lady, 147 

The Times — and Disraeli's maiden 
speech, 12 ; Disraeli contributes, 17, 
59, 108 ; and Young England move- 
ment, 168, 194 

Thierry, Augustin, 151 

Thiers, 95, 148, 156, 338 

Thiers, Mme., 148 

Thompson, Mr. Alderman, 401 

Thomson, Poulett, 3, 15, 23 

Tocqueville, A. de, 158 

Tomline, Mr., 127 

Tory idea, 267 et seq. 

Traill, H. D., 252 

Trollope, Sir John, 401 

Turkey, 178 

Twiss, Horace, 18, 20, 129 

Tyrrell, Sir John, 401 

Ude, Mr., 39 

Vaux, Bertin de, 149 
Victoria, Queen, 30, 58, 91, 112, 242, 
249, 381; coronation, 30; 'Bed- 

chamber plot,' 58, 171 ; Sybil 

quoted, 253 
Villiers, Charles, 5, 22, 106 
Vyvyan, Sir Richard, 125, 130, 131 

Wakley, Thomas, 6, 75, 85 

WaJewski, Count, 148 

Walpole, Horace, 318 

Walpole, Lord, 94 

Walter, John (second), 168, 194 

Walter, John (third), 168, 194, 202 

Ward, Lord, 33 

Warr, Lord de la, 249 

Webster, Daniel, 64 

Wellington, Duke of, 18, 58, 90, 281, 
327, 336; illness, 29, 73; 'Atticus' 
letter quoted, 108 ; General Bau- 
drand and, 156 ; joins reconstructed 
Peel Ministry, 343 

William IIL, 270 

William IV. — death of, 8 

Wilton, Lord, 243 

Wombwell, George, 21, 147, 195 

Wynn, C, 26 

Yarde-Buller, Sir John, 86, 401 
Young, Sir William, 24 
Young England movement, 162 et seq., 
219, 231, 246, 266, 303, 330 

Zavodouska, Countess, 32, 33 
Zichy, Count, 31. 

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